Glue-gun goons target unwary ATM users

Crafty crooks are creating a sticky situation for bank customers in San Francisco, using glue rather than guns to rob them at ATM machines.

Police are warning residents about a rise in theft reports involving thieves who disable ATM keys using adhesives.

The thieves glue down the “enter,” “cancel” and “clear” buttons on the keypad and wait until the customer goes into the bank for help before withdrawing money from their account.

The robbed customers have already punched in their PINs when they realize the keypad buttons are stuck. The unwitting customers either do not know that they can use the ATM touchscreen to finish their transaction, or become nervous when the keypad isn’t working and react by leaving the ATM  unattended, Richmond Station police Capt. Richard Corriea said.

Since January, there have been four such thefts in the Richmond District alone, Corriea said.

“And you have to figure it’s not always reported to us,” Corriea said.

Often, bank customers don’t notice the thefts for days, San Francisco police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.

“Best thing for consumers is to monitor their bank account,” Esparza said.

There are several nonviolent ways crooks can steal cash from ATMs, but the glue method is less risky, Corriea said.

A thief caught applying glue to an ATM would be slapped with a misdemeanor vandalism charge, but likely won’t face a felony fraud charge because it isn’t easy to prove that the crook intended to steal, Corriea said.

Avoiding this type of theft is simple. First, customers should know they can use the touchscreen if the keypad buttons are stuck, Corriea said.

Also, customers should never leave cards in the machine unattended, he said. Customers can call the bank using their cell phone, or send someone else into the bank to fetch help, he said.

In its consumer protections list, Bank of America advises its customers not to use ATMs where suspicious people are lurking, and to shield the keypad when entering their PINs.

Parting customers with their money

The Lebanese loop: Crooks insert a blocking device, such as a thin strip of film, into the card slot of the ATM machine. Meanwhile, the crook may be watching you enter your PIN. When the card doesn’t come out, the victim goes into the bank seeking help. The crook then pulls out the card, and withdraws cash.

Cash trapping: A sleeve or device is installed inside the cash dispenser, blocking the cash from coming out. While customers are seeking help, crooks remove the block and pull out the cash.

Shoulder surfing: Thieves are known to mount a wireless video camera inside ATM areas. Once the scammers record your number, they can reproduce magnetic strips to replicate ATM cards. Thieves are also known to put fake PIN keypads over original keypads to record information, or place fake ATM machines in public locations to record information.

The skimmer: Devices installed in ATMs can scan card information, including account number, balance and pin number. Skimmers can collect and store information for up to 200 ATM cards.

Phishing: Scammers pretending to be a representative of a bank send bank customers an e-mail, which includes a notice requesting the customer to update account information. The thieves collect the information and reproduce the ATM card or simply withdraw money from an account via online banking.


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