Belfast Telegraph

Fraudsters stole £500 Christmas gift cash in ATM scam, warns Co Down mum

By Allan Preston

A mother has told how ATM fraudsters stole almost £500 from her bank account just weeks before Christmas.

Maria Millar (37) last used her bank card at a cash machine at Tesco on the Castlewellan Road, near Newcastle, Co Down, on Tuesday, November 28.

Last Monday, she discovered £240 had been lifted from her account with a further £250 taken the next day.

The money has since been refunded, but Maria said it was a lesson for people to be wary.

"It was Christmas money I was keeping for my oldest daughter who has just turned 16," she said. "I was panicking and had no clue what I was going to do for Christmas."

After calling the police, Maria was directed to Bank of Ireland's fraud team, who told her it was likely a skimming machine was used on the ATM.

"They told me they probably put a device into the slot and attached a camera above to read my pin number," she said.

"I didn't cover my hand at the time, when putting the PIN code in. There wasn't anyone behind me at the time so I wasn't worried."

She added: "It was an extremely stressful week, worrying about what I would do for my daughter."

After posting an online warning to others, Maria was moved when a kind Samaritan reached out with an offer of help.

The message read: "I heard about your card being cloned and you losing all your money, I don't have a lot but if the bank won't refund it for you I will send something to you. It's not a nice thing to happen any time of year but especially at Christmas."

Maria said: "It just shows there are still decent people out there."

Since then, the bank has refunded the money to Maria in full. She added: "I'm just relieved Christmas can go ahead as it's supposed to now."

A spokeswoman from Bank of Ireland UK issued guidance for customers to avoid cash machine fraud.

She warned people to be aware of their physical surroundings and to ensure no one is trying to distract them. Customers are also advised to check that there are no obvious signs that the ATM has been tampered with or damaged, and to ensure other people in the queue are at a reasonable distance behind them.

The spokeswoman said the keypad should also be shielded with a hand to prevent hidden cameras or people from capturing the PIN. She also advised customers to use ATM machines that are in clear view and well lit. If customers are suspicious, they are advised to walk away. Anyone whose card is retained by a machine should report it immediately, the bank said.

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