Reader Nearly Gets Jacked By Fake ATM

Reader Paul was trying to enjoy fried pop tarts at an outdoor city festival in his hometown when his debit card was nearly stolen by a fake ATM. Someone had modified an arcade cabinet and placed it outside a bank where it had captured the overflow traffic spilling out of the bank lobby.

Paul writes:

I read the post about the fake ATM machines and wanted you to know that I got nearly burned by one.

I cannot give out a lot of information due to the ongoing investigation, now an FBI investigation, about my incident.

A few weeks ago there was a weekend outdoor city festival going on with thousands of people roaming the kiosks, tents, carnival rides and eateries. Naturally they only accepted cash.

Since I don’t normally carry cash I went down the street to large chain bank to use the ATM. The indoor ATM and the drive through one was jam packed and with the 90+ degree temperature most people were opting to wait in the lobby of the indoor ATM. There was a small line with a stand-alone ATM sitting outside the bank against the wall. Nothing seemed out of place, just seemed convenient to have one at that moment. The girl in front of me and I started some chit chat about this ATM and she noted she goes to this bank all the time and has never seen this ATM before. We concluded that the bank may have added it the day before to get a ton of ATM fees off non-bank members during the festival. We laughed but not for long. The guy in front of her started cursing up a storm when he tried to withdraw $100 and only got one $20 bill. I looked at the ATM and noted that it looked too familiar to me… it was a modified ARCADE CABINET!! The screen was basically a TV screen and number pad lifted from another ATM machine and a real (definitely not fake) card reader installed very well next to the screen.

Long story short, I gave my statement to the county police and yesterday I was brought in for questioning by an FBI agent and I found out what was going on. The FBI agent and I have heavy IT backgrounds and he revealed that the ATM was simple setup: TV, cheap PC, speakers, REAL card reader and a WIFI router. The best part, it actually had a real cash dispenser and actually gave out REAL cash (found a real $20 bill jammed in the dispenser).

The scam works like this:
Build and deploy a fake ATM, let it dispense real money not to tip off anyone, sit in a van down the street with a laptop and have the fake ATM feed credit card numbers and PIN’s to it over WIFI. Once the money runs out, just dip out.

Turns out that the machine probably had about $2000 in it, not bad for the potential money that can be stolen later and the fake ATM couldn’t have cost more than $1000 to make. The bank logo, the ATM menus can easily be copied from image files off the internet and setup to look real.

The agent also told me that this sort of thing is happening more often. Some of them dispense counterfeit bills, real money or errors out saying it is out of order (but gets the card information and PIN). Best ones so far he said are how ballsy the crooks get by putting these ATM’s in malls and gas stations. Also they are also finding ATM’s solely to do “Fast Deposits.” Basically it says that it will immediately credit the deposit (cash only, naturally) to your account no matter when you put the money in, even weekends. Those are the worst since it asks for your card, PIN, savings/checking account number to be entered at the machine.

My particular incident is under Federal investigation because some leads point it to an international Asian crime gang that has a chapter (is that what they’re called?) in my area. Those Triads… always getting on my nerves.

The FBI agent gave me some tips that I think you guys might want to pass on to your readers:

  • Only use familiar ATMs you’ve used before
  • If it looks fake, it probably is
  • If you get counterfeit money, call the cops immediately
  • If you realize you’ve used a fake ATM, call your financial institution immediately to put a fraud alert on your account

LOVE the Consumerist!!

-Paul

While you’re on the alert for fake ATMS, and boning up on how to spot ATM skimmer devices, be sure to also check out these 5 credit card scams to beware.

PREVIOUSLY: Fake ATMs Drain Your Account Dry

Comments

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  1. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    When the “Spy Hunter” theme is coming out of the ATM, that should be a clue. Also,when the screen says “Game Over: Please insert 24 cents to continue”, you should find another machine.

    • FooSchnickens - Full of SCAR says:

      I dunno, 24 cents is quite a bargain for an arcade game. Or ATM fee, for that matter.

    • Cameraman says:

      24 cents?

    • KillerBee says:

      24 cents? That’s a tip off that’s probably a cheap Chinese knockoff of a Spy Hunter machine.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        Sorry, I went to a discount arcade when I was a kid. The games were cheaper, but you had to have your receipt checked on the way out.

    • DerangedHermit says:

      I make my own ATM’s at home.

    • PanCake BuTT says:

      I always love your witty, first replies, to most articles & the groupies who follow up with further witty and snark remarks in support of. Keep up the gr8 work, buddy boy !

  2. mythago says:

    WOW. Good work, Reader Paul! You probably saved a lot of other folks from being scammed.

    • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

      Agreed, but I wouldn’t be posting any personally identifiable information, given the “international Asian crime gang” involved. The yakuza is taking this matter very seriously.

  3. sonneillon says:

    All your ATMs belong to us.

  4. Liam Kinkaid says:

    Should have pushed the ZOOM button to get the rest of his money. I always wondered why Ms. Pac Man needed a ZOOM but regular Pac Man didn’t. Seems sexist to me.

    • mac-phisto says:

      probably b/c ms. pac man beats the shit out of regular pac man.

    • paul says:

      If you’re referring to a button that makes ms. pac-man go faster, that is not part of the game. It was an after-market hack and was available on both regular pac-man and ms. pac-man.

  5. Ladybird says:

    Thanks to Consumerist, I will only use ATM’s affiliated with my bank. Granted, a crook could still try to pull something, but at least I have some leverage if I need to get my money back.

    What people won’t do…geez.

  6. MrsLopsided says:

    I was looking a the photo for clues but then realized that the photo is of a Canadian ABM. Just a random photo attached to the story.

  7. Daverson says:

    Greetings, Starfighter. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada. Please enter your PIN.

  8. Supes says:

    Generally, if you’re forced to use an ATM you are not familiar with, opt to use an ATM that’s actually built into a building rather than a standalone.

    • baquwards says:

      I really try to steer clear of stand alone atms. If I have to use one, I use a card from an account with very little money, and the inability to overdraft.

    • Supes says:

      Plus (I should add) ATMs inside of banks are also generally safer if you’re using an unknown, for a combination of reasons. Increased camera surveillance of the area, frequently limited hours or need to scan a card to get inside, harder for the perp to observe, etc….

      Planting a skimmer is already a bold move, so the thieves will at least opt for ATMs in more vulnerable locations.

    • sweaterhogans says:

      Walking around Manhattan recently, I noticed for the first time how many standalone ATMs there were. All looked extremely shady, and I can’t imagine how people are using these. I feel like we should just not allow these at all.

  9. redspeed says:

    From the sounds of it since it doesnt connect anywhere to verify your info and it has real money inside, you can stick a used up giftcard or something inside, type some random numbers and get the crooks real money for yourself.

    • shangyle says:

      Ha nice! What’s the worst that could happen? It would probably not even know enough to tell you it doesn’t have that much money in it, so you’d just get all of what is left in there. Free money! (Then go cancel your card.)

    • YOXIM says:

      That’s actually a pretty good idea! As long as the ATM doesn’t dispense fake money, as some have been found to do.

  10. graymccarty says:

    Clearly a Canadian ATM with the Interac sticker :)

  11. milkcake says:

    Wow, if I knew this was a fake ATM that dispense REAL CASH, then I would grab my expired card and just get as much as money out of it and jet out.

    • chefboyardee says:

      that is an amazing idea. i’m going to look for fake ATMs just to do this.

      • smo0 says:

        This is what I said on the last atm post!! I was shot down !!! They replied that there was never any real money in those things!

        THE LIES!

  12. Bob Lu says:

    A fake ATM that gives real money, that’s new to me. So maybe next time when I am using a new ATM I never see before, I should enter the wrong password first, see if I can get some free money?

  13. DoubleEcho says:

    So if you find an ATM that doubles as an arcade machine, can you get the fee waived if you score enough points?

  14. mavrick67 says:

    This story contains so much BS my monitor is starting to stink. This crap is urban legend garbage and makes me doubt anything I read in Consumerist now.
    Breaking it down . . .

    (I cannot give out a lot of information due to the ongoing investigation, now an FBI investigation, about my incident.) . . . also a convenient way to explain why there are no verifiable facts in this story, no bank or branch name, etc.

    (was jam packed and with the 90+ degree temperature most people were opting to wait in the lobby of the indoor ATM. There was a small line with a stand-alone ATM sitting outside the bank against the wall.) . . . hold on , the bank was open? And no one working at the bank is going to notice a new ATM installed on the side of the building? People working at the bank come and go at all hours, go to lunch, leave for meetings etc., but no one notices a new machine or a line on the side of the building?

    (I looked at the ATM and noted that it looked too familiar to me… it was a modified ARCADE CABINET!! ) . . . here again, “Paul” immediately notices it’s an old Galaga machine, but no other customer is suspicious and goes inside to ask the bank staff?

    (Long story short, I gave my statement to the county police and yesterday I was brought in for questioning by an FBI agent and I found out what was going on.) . . . ?!? this super secret investigation that Paul can’t release the bank name, but the investigating agent is going to release all the details to “Paul”? plus he gets “brought in” for questioning by the FBI? the FBI doesn’t do that if you witness an ARMED BANK ROBBERY, but they bring in Paul because he was second in line and witness a guy supposedly cheated out of $80?

    (the best part it had a real cash dispenser and actually gave out REAL cash (found a real $20 bill jammed in the dispenser). . . . the dispenser is one of the most complicated parts of an ATM, these super smart crooks are going to use a computer tied into a dispenser that dispenses REAL cash (Paul’s emphasis) stock it with a few thousand in real money but save a few bucks by using a video game cabinet? Makes NO SENSE!

    • TexasP says:

      I concur… this story seems highly dubious, in the same way that all of the Prius acceleration stories were dubious.

      Ben, any verification of this story?

    • Jesse says:

      My issue with the story is that it would probably be a better idea to get a small ATM found in many bars, gas stations and restaurants off of eBay and modifying the system to skim the information. I don’t think a crime ring would be building fake ATM’s out of arcade boxes.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      i agree with many of your points of suspicion, but i want to point out the bank may not have been open. it was a weekend festival.
      some branches of my credit union have a kind of airlock lobby. the inner doors lead into the bank proper where the tellers and offices are. but between the outside and the inner doors is a large pseudo lobby with an ATM in it. and some security cameras and air conditioning.
      this may be what the OP was referring to

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        and, i forgot to type in the previous box, at my credit union the outer ATM lobby area is open nights and weekends when the bank isn’t to provide a safer, well lit, security camera watched place to use the ATM

    • paul says:

      My feelings as well…

    • shifty says:

      I was with you on this whole thing being fabricated, but look at this:
      http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9136179/Fake_ATM_doesn_t_last_long_at_hacker_meet

      As I was reading the story, I could not help but think it sounded familiar and even more so actually plausible (watching too many episodes of Mythbusters!)

      The link above basically notes that the ATM was placed IN A CASINO. Even if you have never been to one, they have a million cameras facing every direction and cover 110% of the floor. But somehow, someone managed to slip a fake ATM machine into a CASINO!

      Hell, just thinking about that makes this guy’s story all too real to me. i think that those guys in his story copied the casino scam.

      I will admit that the guys story might be exaggerated a bit. “questioning”, not hte right term, but more like “making a witness statement”.

      Last point, if you guys think about it, an arcade cabinet would be a decent template for ATM. Big, heavy, loads of room for hte equipment. hell, its all particle board or MDF. and used ones can be found on ebay or craigslist all day long for cheap.

      just sayin!

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      If the FBI does call you in as a witness for an active investigation, (though I’ll dispute your assertion that there’s no other incident other than an armed robbery for which they may want to interview witnesses) odds are pretty good they’ll ask you to keep mum about the interrogation.

      However, an important detail that should be publicly known even without naming the specific bank would be the city in which such an event occurred. That would have been a very timely warning to local residents and visitors. However, this was a “few weeks ago” which leaves only a very few places that may have had “90+ degree” weather.

    • thewriteguy says:

      I had my suspicions and was disappointed when he didn’t say what kind of arcade game cabinet it was! (Hey, I’m a fan of classic arcade machines.)

  15. vastrightwing says:

    Ever since BoA started charging up to $3, I decided to stop using any ATM not from my bank. I pull on the card reader to make sure it’s part of the machine and not a stick on skimmer. I also look for cameras pointed toward the keypad, oh and I won’t use an ATM in a mall or other insecure area.

    • Supes says:

      Best plan is to get rid of BOA. Their ATM fees are ridiculous if you use non-BOA ATMs… they charge $3, plus $3 (often) from the ATM you are using itself.

      Quite a few good-interest checking accounts actually reimburse any ATM fees, allowing you to use any machines you want. Now I intentionally avoid BOA ATMs so they don’t get any more of my money.

      • Jesse says:

        Check into credit unions too. My credit union will pay 4% on my checking account balance and refund all ATM fees both ways if I make at least 12 check card transactions and one electronic deposit/withdrawal per month.

  16. nodaybuttoday says:

    No one at the bank realized there was a random, new ATM outside of the bank? Aren’t there usually cameras outside of banks?

    • Michael Bauser says:

      Submitter said it was a weekend festival, so it’s probable the bank wasn’t even open. Most “security cameras” don’t have somebody watchingthem 24/7 — they’re recording tapes that won’t be looked at unless somebody reports an incident. Assuming the scammers drop off the machine in the middle of the night, nobody at the bank is going to notice the “new” machine until they come into work on Monday.

    • NYGuy1976 says:

      People that work at banks don’t decide to put new atm machines in. Banks have departments that take care of all property related issues. The people working at the bank could of have just thought someone else must have approved and set that up.

  17. fuhfalkor says:

    I just can’t take this seriously because of this sentence:

    My particular incident is under Federal investigation because some leads point it to an international Asian crime gang that has a chapter (is that what they’re called?) in my area.

  18. Baelzar says:

    Hmm. Must be a news blackout on this fake ATM story, unless the city festival was taking place in Beijing…

    I call shenanigans.