Police warning as 'skimming' raiders target cash machines in Northern Ireland
Illegal skimming devices are being discovered attached to cash machines in Northern Ireland at the rate of nearly one a week, it has been revealed.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been stolen from the accounts of unsuspecting banking customers over the last 12 months alone.
Police yesterday issued a stark warning as they predicted a rise in skimming incidents across the province.
The most recent reports have been in Antrim, Carrickfergus and Lurgan.
A total of 46 skimming devices were reported last year while another 18 incidents were reported in which either a card or cash had been withheld by an ATM which had been illegally manipulated.
Skimming involves a device being attached to a cash dispenser to record the electronic details from the magnetic strips of genuine cards as they are inserted.
A miniature camera is hidden, overlooking the PIN pad to capture the number being entered. A fake magnetic strip card is then produced and used with the genuine PIN to withdraw cash at cash machines overseas, where they have yet to upgrade to chip and PIN.
Police say it is not possible to provide a figure for the total amount of money which has been stolen, as many card details can be skimmed during each incident, depending on how long the device has been in place.
Detective Constable Stephen Crooks, from the PSNI economic crime unit, said there was a strong possibility that there could be more skimming incidents.
"In our experience there will be more incidents. I would advise people, whatever their age and wherever they are, to follow some simple steps to keep themselves and their cash safe," he said. "Members of the public can help themselves by taking these precautions but police will be paying increasing attention to activity at ATMs over the coming days."
To ensure safe transactions police have issued the following advice:
• Put your personal safety first. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, cancel the transaction and use a different machine;
• If you spot anything unusual about the cash machine, or there are signs of tampering, do not use it. Report it to police and the bank concerned immediately;
• Be alert. If someone is crowding or watching you, cancel the transaction and go to another machine;
• Stand close to the cash machine. Always shield the keypad with your free hand and your body to avoid anyone seeing you enter your PIN;
• Once you have completed a transaction, put your money and card away before leaving the cash machine.