ZYRA's site //// Rogue e-mails //// More Rogues //// Bank hoaxes //// crimes //// site index

ATM Scam!

Thieves steal your Cash Machine Card by "sleeve & prongs" method!

BUT, is it genuine? You make your own mind up!

Here is the original warning, sent out by people circulating e-mails...

Dear All

We have been asked to send this crime prevention advice about using cash
machines to as many people as possible, so I'm emailing it to all my
external addresses.  I hope it gets to you all.  I also hope it prevents
someone from being ripped off!

The ACPO ATM Working Group has asked us to circulate following information:

Beware the next time you use an ATM.  Criminals are inventing evermore
ingenious methods of relieving you of your cash.

The latest scam involves thieves putting a thin, clear, rigid plastic
'sleeve' into the ATM card slot. When you insert your card, the machine
can't read the strip, so it keeps asking you to re-enter your PIN number.
Meanwhile, someone behind you watches as you tap in your number.  Eventually
you give up, thinking the machine has swallowed your card and you walk away.
The thieves then remove the plastic sleeve complete with card, and empty
your account.

The way to avoid this is to run your finger along the card slot before you
put your card in.  The sleeve has a couple of tiny prongs that the thieves
need to get the sleeve out of the slot, and you'll be able to feel them.

The police would like as many people as possible to be aware of this scam,
so pass this on to your friends.

OK, your friend has sent you this in good faith, but IS IT TRUE? Should you send it to everyone on your e-mail address book? Admittedly it sounds genuine, but you should always be wary of any messages asking for you to forward it to as many people as possible (even though I suggest this notion myself in my circulars!). But back to the ATM Warning, is it true? Well, if it IS true, here are a few interesting questions raised:

1. Why is it, when you phone the police and say "Is it genuine?" they haven't really heard about it. So, it rather casts doubt upon "The police would like as many people as possible to be aware of this scam, so pass this on to your friends"

2. On phoning Barclays Bank they recommend NOT passing it on, as they have not originated it and even though they have thousands of cash machines they have never heard of any such scam. In fact they were quite surprised when they started receiving copies of it!

But then again, it is NOT true, here are a few other interesting questions raised:

1. Who originated it?

2. What do the originators hope to gain by it? Surely getting lots of people to forward-on a bogus message is hardly going to be much gratification?

So, you make your own mind up about it. If anyone sends you the message, make them aware of this page and the philosophical points raised, and think twice before sending it to everyone. Plus, regardless of the truth or falsehood of this message there IS such a thing as cash-machine crime. So...

1. Make sure no-one sees you type in your PIN.

2. If you lose your card, whether in a machine or otherwise, call the bank immediately.

3. Read your bank statements so you can spot if any crime is taking place.

4. Place false leads for crooks to find, for example wrong PINs written in obvious places, non-valid cards used as decoys, misleading behaviour, etc.

Gary writes:

The scam is real. It's worth checking if you ever get your card swallowed, you may just as easily be able to get it back. It always pays to take caution with cash machines anyway. It's best to try and use the debit card functions that most current account cards have nowadays wherever possible. Hope this is of some help to you and your users.

Current evidence suggests that the e-mail is a mostly harmless chain letter and definitely NOT genuine, but that there are various ATM scams which are real. Therefore caution is advised.

In general the rules on card crime are such that if you can prove you did security-conscious things, then the bank loses money, not you!

Also, if you hear any news about this odd ATM Scam message, please let me know. e-mail

Hunterwolf writes...

Urbanlegends has several newsfliers describing in detail the methodology and prevention of the ATM scam...

Snopes.com while professing the ATM scam has all the ingredients of being another erumour (details change, untraceable origins, etc.), they admit it is possible to do the "Lebanese Loop" and have found cases of people being charged for being in possession of said devices...

ABC News also has an article...


Dare to be different.
If I have to explain,
you won't understand.


Michael writes...

ATM Scam. Is it true? I'm afraid it is.

On Saturday I placed my card in a Natwest cash machine and it swallowed my card. I found out this morning that a thousand pounds had been removed from my account. When I reported the loss to the police they asked me if I knew what a 'Lebanese Loop' was and when I told them I did not they explained. I think that my bank will probably pay me back eventually, but If I had received the email I suspect that I would have realized what was going on and not have been without cash all week end and saved a substantial amount of time and money.

Richard writes (Tuesday, December 17, 2002 9:33 AM)
Subject: Errrrr... it is true


Last night I was in Enfield, North London and started to use a cash machine. The ATM asked me to re-enter my details, I got suspicious and noticed that there was a black piece of plastic (with a slit in it), covering the slot where you put your card in. I pulled at it, and out came my card and the ATM shut down.

For more info:

Also see:

Thursday, January 08, 2004 11:41 AM

Trish writes:

The Cash Machine Card by "sleeve & prongs" email has hit South Africa and the Bank is not shown as Barclay's Bank (as on your website) but FNB (which is used to be Barclay's Bank many years ago in this country). Unless they are all using the same type of Cash Card Machines (ATMs), which I doubt as FNB is now a totally independent company, this is more than likely a hoax email as the information is changing as countries change.




From: Rita
Sent: Wednesday, July 07, 2004 3:43 AM
Subject: ATM scam (aka Lebanese loop) happened to me in Montreal

I saw your site and just had to respond. This is totally true. I'm not in the UK. I'm from Boston and was visiting Montreal with my husband and friend and both of their cards were swallowed by the ATM. There was a suspicious guy who pretended to act like a concerned local. He told us that there was a nearby branch that was open (to try and lure away from the machine). I ignored him and called the bank. The bank (CIBC) called the police. A device was removed from the machine and my husband's card was retrieved. My friend was less lucky. A woman, who used her atm right afterwards was apparently in on the plot and took her money right from under her nose! She was very slick. I was told by the ATM service man that this scam is called the lebanese loop.



----- Original Message -----
From: Debra
Sent: Friday, August 12, 2005 7:57 PM
Subject: ATM Scam

This is in response to the e-mail posted on your site. This is what happened to me. I went to a drive thru bank ATM machine. The person in the car in front of me got out and walked up to the machine. I thought it was 2 couples on a date. Anyway, when I put my card in, it got stuck.Since I couldn't get it out, I took a pen top and pushed it in further, thinking that if I couldn't get it out, then no one else could either. I left, and went somewhere else and got money. I decided to go back by the bank to get either a phone number or the exact address. As I pull in the parking lot, the people who had been in front of me were leaving(again) About 15 minutes between my 1st visit and my 2nd visit. So I went to the machine to see if my card was still stuck. No! I put another card in, it slid right in. I followed them (a whole nother story) and they had 5 credit cards, according to the store manager. I went to the bank the next day, and their machine had captured a bunch of cards, but not mine. The bank officer said she had no idea how they did that. I reported it to white collar crimes at our sherrifs department, and the detective said he had never heard of anything like that. Because they did not attempt to use my card, there was no crime, and no further investigation. So my vote on your story- I know it can happen.


Banks advise caution when using an ATM but have various speculative views about devices which might be in use by criminals. See a few reviews about these at www.absa.co.za and www.standardbank.co.za (specific page was http://www.standardbank.co.za/SBIC/Frontdoor_02_01/0,2354,3447_3133945_0,00.html ). Plus, other good links that has been sent in are: http://www.utexas.edu/admin/utpd/atm.html

and www.cityoflondon.police.uk/economic-crime/ec-fraud-scams.html about other types of ATM scam. Also, scams involving tampering with equipment: Payphone scam. Also, to see the amazing extent of security riddled with holes, see Xyroth's account of chip and pin

If you've arrived at this page to look at scams, it's worth knowing about the Nigeria Scam, various Bank Hoaxes, antiVirus stuff, things to do with defeating Spyware and How to Defeat Annoying Pop-Ups.

Or, if you've arrived at this page because of an interest in ATM equipment and security at banks, you might be interested to know that Joe at JMS Inc of Ajax Ontario has written in to let us all know about some hardware. See JMS Inc. Joe says "For the most reliable and economical ATMs nothing beats a Triton".