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!!


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.

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