Police are warning the public to stay vigilant after thieves attempted to gain access to a Carrick woman’s bank account by ‘skimming’.
A method used by criminals to capture data from a credit or debit card, skimming devices are often attached to a normal bank machine.
Unsuspecting customers use the machine to enter their details, which are then stored until the device is removed by whoever installed it.
The alert comes after one Carrick resident told of how thieves attempted to clear out her account after gaining access to her personal information.
Valerie Armstrong said she felt “sick” when she learned of how she had been targeted by the fraudsters.
She told the Times: “I had a missed call from [Danske Bank] last Friday morning which said to contact them urgently; when I got back to them, they said that there had been an attempt from somewhere in Sri Lanka to clean out my bank account.
“Fortunately for me, they had entered the PIN wrongly three times and that had alerted the bank, so nothing had been taken from me.
“I asked how it had happened, as I don’t use my card online, and they told me it had been skimmed from an ATM.
“The only ATMs I generally use are the ones at Clipperstown and the one at Tesco.
“I felt sick to my stomach at first, because it wasn’t until a few minutes into the conversation that [the bank] even said that the transactions hadn’t been successful.”
Valerie was told by Danske Bank that her card had been cancelled and a replacement would be sent out to her.
“I was advised to change my PIN but I was told I’d have to do that at an ATM,” added Valerie, from the Prospect area of the town.
An attempt was also made to access her PayPal account; fortunately, she had changed the password a few weeks earlier.
“It’s just disgusting that these gangs are trying to get people’s money in this way,” she added.
A Facebook post by Valerie’s husband Rob on the incident drew a considerable response from the community, with many claiming to have had similar experiences.
Police confirmed that they had received a report on December 12 of an attempt to gain unauthorised access to a bank account.
Officers inspected the ATMs at Clipperstown and Tesco, but found nothing untoward, a spokesperson said.
“If you notice anything attached to an ATM which looks out of place, do not touch it, stop the transaction immediately and alert police as well as the bank,” the spokesperson added.
Police are advising customers of the following to ensure safe transactions;
- Make sure you hide your pin number while at an ATM as criminals may be watching;
- Be aware of your surroundings. If you are talking on a phone or wearing headphones you can’t take in what is going on around you;
- Cardholders should also guard their personal identification number (PIN) more carefully and be aware that any form of distraction or assistance while they are using an ATM could mean someone is trying to steal their dispensed money or their card;
- If someone tries to distract you and you feel unsure, cancel the ATM transaction;
- Do not be complacent, a robbery can occur in crowded environments, not just deserted streets.
Meanwhile. a statement from Danske Bank indicated that the skimming device in question “was not found on a Danske Bank ATM”.
The statement added: “However, once we become aware of fraud or attempted fraud on a customer’s account, we move quickly to block any cards that could have been skimmed. We will work closely with the PSNI to investigate the matter and in instances where fraud has been perpetrated on a customer’s card the bank will refund the transaction amount and any interest and charges incurred. A new card and PIN will also be issued.
“Our ATMs are checked regularly for suspicious devices. However fraudsters are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and it’s important that consumers always be vigilant and be careful to protect their personal information.
“Earlier this year we introduced an additional security measure on our cards for our customers’ added protection. Geoblocking is a security feature which is available on all Danske Bank personal debit and credit cards. It allows cardholders to restrict the use of their card(s) to certain geographic areas or to prevent the use of their card for internet transactions, reducing the likelihood of fraud.”