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Saudi police have warned people must stay alert when they are withdrawing cash from ATMs. Photo for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Agency

Abu Dhabi: Three Saudi men, in their 30s and 40s, were arrested for tampering with ATM machines police said.

Their modus operandi was to insert a tool such as a fork-like device that keeps the cash slot open after an ATM withdrawal, or a glue trap to trap at least some of the cash said Major Khaled Al Kreidis, assistant media spokesman for the Riyadh police.


The men were referred to the Public Prosecution pending further investigation and trial, Major Al Kreidis said.

He also warned of fake ATM cash dispensers placed in front of the real one.

Police warned people to stay alert of other similar ATM attacks of debit and credit card trapping, which is a method wherein criminals physically capture their target’s cards using an ATM.

“They do this by introducing a device, usually a Lebanese Loop, that prevents the card from getting ejected once a transaction is completed. Criminals steal their target’s PIN by shoulder surfing or by using a small hidden camera similar to those used in skimming,” police said.

They warned bank customers that before they withdraw cash, it’s always worth taking a few seconds to check the machine they are about to use hasn’t been tampered with by criminals.

Bank clients were advised to avoid an ATM and seek out another one if they spot any of the following signs:

Pinhole cameras

Scammers have been known to hide tiny pinhole cameras in cash machines to record people’s PINs.

Before you even enter your details, check the cash machine for loose parts, including the card slot and keypad.

Don’t try and remove the camera yourself as the criminals in question could be hanging around near the machine and might confront you.

Fake fronts

In some cases, criminals place card or cash capture devices and PIN compromise devices in or around ATMs to get quick access to your cash.

A few sneaky scammers will even put on entire false fronts to capture unsuspecting people’s PINs and money.

They’re often really well disguised so have a thorough check of the ATM before you start using it.

A wider card slot than normal

This tool is attached to the ATM’s card slot that secretly takes your card details when you’re making a withdrawal. Apart from its width, it’s really difficult to distinguish it from a normal card slot.

Keep an eye out for misaligned or misprinted stickers - it’s often an attempt to cover up where a compromise device has been installed.

A loose or blocked card slot

This may be a sign of a ‘Lebanese Loop’. Criminals will try and trap your card in the machine by placing a tiny plastic device or sleeve with a barb into the card reader so that when you try and withdraw money, your card will get stuck.

The ATM will keep asking for a PIN as it can’t read the card, leading you to believe that your card has been swallowed and walk away. That gives the fraudsters the perfect opportunity to swoop in and take your card.

Loose PIN pad

Be wary if the PIN pad feels loose, thick or sponge-like. This crafty trick is known as ‘pin-pad overlay’ - the real PIN pad is covered by a fake which does record your PIN correctly just like any other machine but also captures your details for the fraudster.

In some cases, numbers are instantly transferred by WiFi to a waiting accomplice so that they can record it and use it later.

Loitering groups of strangers

This warning is nothing new but is still vitally important: be aware of what’s going on around you. Don’t accept help from strangers and don’t allow yourself to get distracted.

Scammers often work in teams and they rely on distraction to catch their victims out, police warn.

Police advise it’s a good idea not to use cash machines near a group of people who are inexplicably loitering.

If something goes wrong they may become oddly helpful and when one is trying to assist you, the others may look at your PIN or swipe your card or cash.