Police are warning of a rise in the use of devices known as a ‘Lebanese loop’ to steal ATM users’ cashpoint cards.
A Lebanese loop uses strips or sleeves made out of metal or plastic, which block card slots at ATMs. Victims’ cards are trapped and retained, to be retrieved by the criminals later on.
Some criminals even offer to help, watching and memorizing the number as the victim re-enters their PIN.
In the past, the thieves had to hang around and try and watch as the victim tapped in their PIN. Now, they can use an iPod to video the number as it’s entered.
According to the police, thieves rarely leave the devices in situ for long, returning after dark to retrieve the stolen cards and the iPod with the PIN numbers recorded. Prime sites tend to be near pubs and restaurants.
The devices aren’t necessarily obvious, but may stick out further than the genuine parts of the machine. In the picture accompanying this story, for example, the fake card slot slightly overlaps the arrows below.
Last month one man was sentenced to 12 months in prison for a series of frauds using Lebanese loops in London that netted him £4,373.
Sean Walker, Business Against Crime in Leeds (BACIL) manager, said: “We are urging ATM users to be extra vigilant when withdrawing cash, by shielding the keypad whilst they enter their PIN and to be aware of anyone acting suspiciously around them.
“If your card does get swallowed for no apparent reason then stay by the machine while you ring your bank to cancel it and notify the police.
“You cannot usually see ‘Lebanese Loop’ devices; however, you may be able to feel something unusual over the slot or above the machine itself.”
Protect yourself from cash point fraud
Always look closely at the card insertion point of a cash machine before using it. If it looks like it may have been tampered with, do not use it.
If you realise the machine has been tampered with after you have inserted your card, call your bank while still standing at the cash machine if it is safe to do so.
Always shield your hand when entering your PIN into a cash point keypad.
More advice at actionfraud.police.uk.
Anybody that thinks they’ve spotted a Lebanese loop or other suspect device should avoid using the ATM and call the police on 101.