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ATM Scam

Updated on August 13, 2011

There are a lot of different ATM scams. Some are much more sophisticated than others and involve electronic devices. The one described here is one of the most common and one that you should be especially aware of. As they say forewarned is forearmed.

ATM Scammers are more likely to target the elderly or people who are deep in thought or dithering.

Setting the scene:

You approach the ATM, put in your card and key in your number. All the advice says 'cover the keypad' when you enter your pin. Do it. Do it every time without fail.

In this scam the pin is important. The scammers will do their very best to obtain this. Usually for this scam there are two or three scammers working together. They may be well dressed, any age, male or female and very polite. One of the 'team' will be close by watching or even further away with binoculars. There may even be a tiny camera somewhere focused on the keypad. If the key pad is not sufficiently hidden (use your body) they can even make a good guess of the keys you press by the position of your hand.


The design of ATM's may differ slightly. Mainly though the card will be placed towards the upper right and the keypad towards the centre or left. How the moves are made in the scam are determined by ATM design. Some ATM's are ignored altogether as they are too difficult. Sometimes the sequences required by the ATM can make the scam described here impossible. This will not put the sammers off. Watch the video at the end of this artcle for two alternative scams.

If they have your number the next stage of the scam comes into play.

You will follow the instructions on the screen and press the 'Enter' button. Now the scammers will have the time intervals for this particular ATM machine worked out to the millisecond. They know exactly how long it is between that button being pressed and how long it is before your card appears. Remember the card always appears before the cash!

A fraction of a second before the card is returned you will get a tap on your left shoulder. A very polite smiling person will be handing you a £10.00 note (maybe £20) and saying "It looks like you dropped something" or words to that effect. This is enough to put anyone off their guard for a microsecond.

In that time Mr or Mrs politenesses accomplice has removed your card from your right. It is highly unlikely that you will have noticed. As you turn back to the machine your cash will be emerging followed shortly afterwards by your receipt. Mr or Mrs politeness will have already gone, with or without the money they handed to you. It matters little, it may well have been a forgery anyway. You may well believe you have put your card away already and will only miss it later. Even if you miss it now whilst you rummage around in your handbag or sift through your wallet your account is being emptied.


The card which was quickly and quietly removed from the machine whilst your attention was diverted is likely to have been passed on in the street by sleight of hand to accomplice number three.

They have your pin, they have your card and round the corner at the next ATM they will be emptying your account. If there is a daily limit they will try again tomorrow and again and again till withdrawals have been stopped. They may even go shopping and purchase quick re-sell electrical goods or other items of high value.

ATM's in Thailand


Some more sophisticated thieves will take your card from the ATM and very quickly run it through a 'skimmer' in a bag. This will take all the information from your card in an instant and allow the thieves to use a copy of your card at their leisure.

For the majority though it is hardly worth the bother as they can empty your account before you have realised your card is missing or phoned the card company to report it missing.

Be aware. Don't be a victim of an ATM scam.


Two Other ATM Scams You Should Be Aware Of


Submit a Comment

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia

    Hello, hello, - Always best to be cautious.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

    Thank you for your kindness to give that warning.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia

    Edwin - you are right there are some odd atm systems round about.

  • Edwin Clark profile image

    Edwin Clark 6 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

    I guess I'm a bit lucky that I haven't had an problems with the ATMs in Thailand though I have heard many similar issues. I have to say I do get a bit nervous every time I use an ATM to withdraw money because it's like playing Russian Roulette.

    Come to think of it, now that I'm back in NY I wonder why the ATM's in Asia hold onto cards until the transactions are finished. Here we just insert the card, take it out and back into the wallet and the finish the transaction.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia

    TravelinAsia - I sympathise. I have had similar things happen to me. The worst thing about Thai ATM slips that when you draw money from the machine it prints a slip telling you what you had in your account before you just withdrew. So if you draw out 20,000 and the slip it prints says 20,000 then you actually have nothing left in your account. Easy enough if you are not in the know to think you can blow 20,000 on wine, women and song when you don't actually have a wooden nickel.

  • TravelinAsia profile image

    TravelinAsia 6 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia

    A few years back I had tried to withdraw 20,000 THB(the maximum) from a Siam Commercial Bank ATM. The machine went offline and the withdrawal was cancelled. I tried again 5 minutes later and the same thing happened. When I looked at my online banking later on that day, I noticed that 40,000THB was removed from my account. I was horrified, because this left my account near empty.

    I needed that money to live off and pay bills. I went to the bank to report this, and they assured me that this happens all the time, and in a few days it would be fixed, and the funds would go back into my account.

    I told them that I could not wait a few days, and that I needed my money that rightfully belonged to me. They were less than sympathetic, and offered no solution other than waiting.

    I spent the rest of the week harrassing the bank, everyday showing up and sitting there for hours, telling them to make me coffee and bring me something to eat. I told them that I was going hungry because they have taken all my money.

    I eventually got my money back from the bank, after what seemed to be a week long interest free loan to them. However I have talked to other foriegners who have not been so lucky. This scam has nothing to do with scanners and fraudster. This is a matter of Banks and Bankers doing what they please with your money, and apparently with little or no accountability?