04/25/05 05-037

04/25/05 05-037


April 25, 2005

Subject:     ATM Scam Update

There have been several more cases of ATM fraud that have occurred in San Francisco and Vacaville.  In these cases, persons have inserted their ATM card into a device that fits over the ATM panel, which retains the card.  When the person leaves the area, the suspect, who has been hovering nearby and observing the victim entering the PIN, retrieves the card and uses it to withdraw cash later from another ATM. All of these cases involving the card-capturing devices have occurred at branches of Washington Mutual Bank.

The latest twist in the scam is that now the suspect manipulates the ATM card slot, causing the ATM to malfunction when the ATM card is placed into the machine. The ATM display will indicate there is a problem with the ATM. The suspects will have placed a small sticker on the ATM, usually near the card slot. The sticker reads, literally: “If For Any Technical Reason Your Card Is Retained Please Enter Your Pin Number 3 Times And Then Cancel. If You Know Go To Your Nearest Bank And Report. Thank You.” (The sticker wording does not clarify “If You Know . . .”).  If the customer enters the PIN three times, the suspect, who is standing nearby, is able to note the PIN. Once the customer leaves the machine the suspect will return and retrieve the card.

Members of the public should be cautious when using any ATM machine if persons are loitering nearby or of any signs or stickers attached to the ATM. Contact the bank management and/or the police if it appears that an ATM has been tampered with.

The public should take note of these ATM-related safety tips:

  • Use ATMs that are well lighted.
  • Be aware of persons loitering next to or near by the ATM.
  • Always cover the keypad when you enter your PIN.
  • If an ATM retains your card, immediately contact your bank..

For more information, please contact:

Lieutenant Kenwade Lee
SFPD Fraud Section, 553-1521

850 Bryant Street, Room 549, San Francisco, CA. 94103
Tel (415) 553-1651 / Fax (415) 553-9229
email: [email protected]