Card skimmers are increasingly targeting taxis and convenience stores, experts have warned.
Customers withdrawing cash or manually inserting cards into eftpos machines are being targeted more frequently by counterfeiters at these two locations, the Australian Payments Clearing Association revealed in its latest fraud report.
“Fraudsters are increasingly using dummy terminals to skim cards, particularly in taxis and convenience stores, and skimming attempts at ATMs continue,” the report noted.
“Close cooperation between financial institutions and the police is assisting in tackling these attacks.”
This type of fraud occurs when cash is withdrawn from an ATM (using a debit or credit card), or when a payment is made the ‘old fashioned way’ by inserting or swiping a debit card and pressing ‘cheque’ or ‘savings’.
Some $16.5 million was stolen this way in 2015, the report estimated. This was a decrease of $500,000 since 2014, which might be the result of the increasing popularity of tap-n-go and smartphone payments.
NSW fraud and cybercrime squad commander, Detective Superintendent Arthur Katsogiannis, said taxis, stores and ATMs are among the most common targets.
“Skimming can occur in any location where a credit card is used for payment or cash withdrawals, but credit cards are most commonly skimmed in bars, taxis, restaurants, shops, and at ATMs.”
Australians who frequent convenience stores should be wary when withdrawing cash from the ATMs inside.
A recent victim of debit card fraud, a Melbourne woman aged 23, told The New Daily she was skimmed while withdrawing $50 from a machine at a 7-Eleven store on Bourke Street on October 12.
Overnight, fraudsters racked up just over $810 worth of charges all over the world on her Commonwealth Bank card. An SMS notification at 6am the next day alerted her.
“I was so panicky. It’s a debit card so it was my money that was gone!”
The skimming clearly occurred at the 7-Eleven store, as she had not withdrawn cash for two weeks prior, said the woman, who asked not to be named.
“I’m warning people, it does take time to get the money back. It’s been over two weeks and I’ve only got half back. There’s still $400 I’m waiting on, so I think people need to be vigilant.”
A spokesman for 7-Eleven denied the incident occurred.
“7-Eleven takes any allegation of unlawful activity in our stores seriously, and have investigated. We’ve not received any report or complaint matching these circumstances, and our banking partners have advised they have no recorded incidence of skimming at their ATMs. An investigation of the ATMs at all of our Bourke Street stores confirmed they have not been tampered with.”
A spokesperson for convenience stores said skimming is “highly unlikely to occur in reputable stores”.
“ATMs are generally inside and regularly checked and filled by contractors, which makes unauthorised access and tampering difficult,” Australasian Association of Convenience Stores executive director Jeff Rogut said.
Tap-n-go payments in these stores are very unlikely to be ‘skimmed’. The New Daily reported recently that Westpac, ANZ and ME banks had not received a single report of tap-n-go skimming.
A spokesman for the taxi industry said isolated incidents of skimming perpetrated by drivers are “possible”, but denied the problem was widespread or worsening.
“There are over 68,000 taxi drivers in Australia. One bad apple could impact multiple passengers, and so we’d be very confident the payment systems devices in taxis are not prone to skimming devices, and that generally speaking drivers are vigilant to make sure that doesn’t occur,” Australian Taxi Industry Australia CEO Blair Davies said.
“But it is possible, when you’re talking about those large numbers, that somebody could find their way into the industry with some sort of intention to rip off customers that way.”
The industry has lobbied state governments, unsuccessfully, to require all payment devices to be hardwired into taxis to increase consumer confidence, Mr Davies said.
He advised taxi users to pay by smartphone app if they were worried about fraud.
How to protect yourself
A Victoria Police spokesperson advised card holders to protect themselves by:
- Concealing the keypad when entering PIN numbers at an ATM
- Keeping a close eye on every transaction and knowing what to look for when using an ATM
- Regularly checking their bank balance
- Immediately notifying their bank and changing their PIN if they believe a card has been skimmed
- Reporting suspicious activity or suspect devices at ATMs to their bank or police
How to spot a ‘dummy terminal’
The Commonwealth Bank has produced the following helpful guide to spotting skimming devices.