Card thieves use iPods to steal bank customers' PIN numbers

Police warning over Lebanese loops

Updated: 
A Lebanese loop in situ.

Would you recognise a Lebanese loop if you saw one? It's time you learned how. Police are warning of a rise in the use of the devices to steal ATM users' cashpoint cards - and of a new high-tech twist.

A Lebanese loop is an unobtrusive device that's attached by fraudsters to the front of the ATM's card slot. Victims' cards are trapped and retained, to be retrieved by the criminals later on.

In the past, the thieves have had to hang around and try and watch as the victim taps in their PIN number. Now, though, they've got a new high-tech way to do this - by using an iPod to video the number as it's entered.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) say they recently recovered one of the devices from a Royal Bank of Scotland machine in Longsight, but that others have been found across south Manchester Stockport, including cashpoints in Chorlton and Gatley.

"This Lebanese Loop was seized in #Longsight but can be found anywhere on any ATM. Usually foiled by quick checks," they tweet.

"Replica card slot sits above the actual slot with the device feeding inside."

According to the police, thieves rarely leave the devices in situ for long, returning after dark to retrieve the stolen cards and the iPod with the PIN numbers recorded. Prime sites tend to be near pubs and restaurants, they say.

The devices aren't necessarily obvious, but may stick out further than the genuine parts of the machine. In the picture accompanying this story, for example, the fake card slot slightly overlaps the arrows below.

Last month, Romanian Alfred Malcev, 41, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for a series of frauds using Lebanese loops in London that netted him £4,373.

"Over a month's period, he worked with others to fraudulently obtain thousands of pounds leaving the banks with a bill to pay to those who had their money stolen from their bank accounts," says City of London Police officer Dominic Shaw.

"I would like to remind people to always cover their PIN number when using a cash machine and to look over their shoulder to see if anyone is acting suspicious." ​​​​​

Anybody that thinks they've spotted a Lebanese loop or other suspect device should avoid using the ATM and call the police on 101.

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