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ATM Card Fraud Awareness

What is Card Skimming?

Card skimming is the copying of encoded information from the magnetic stripe of a legitimate card, making use of a card reader, for fraudulent purposes and utilising the data to encode counterfeit, lost, or stolen cards.

How do fraudsters skim cards?

Fraudsters use sophisticated devices to steal PIN and card information. In some instances they use hand-held card readers to copy customers' card information, either at Point of Sale or at the ATM. These devices are small and literally concealed in a criminal's hand without the customer even noticing.

Card skimming with handheld skimming devices in South Africa usually happens when the card leaves the hand of its owner.

How does this usually happen at the ATM?

The modus operandi at ATMs is for a fraudster to approach a customer while transacting and through distraction, get hold of his/her card for a second in order to swipe through the skimming device and copy the information on the magnetic strip. In the process, the PIN number is being shoulder-surfed (they look over your shoulder to see you typing in your PIN).

By obtaining the card information and PIN number, the fraudster manufactures a duplicate card and ultimately transacts on the account, clearing all funds as quick as possible.

Are there other ways to skim a card at an ATM?

Yes, in other instances, a card skimming device is placed over the card slot, copying the card information once the card is inserted into the ATM. A small camera is hidden to capture the PIN.

15 Tips to prevent falling victim to ATM Card Skimming

  1. Cover up: Always cover your one hand with the other hand while keying in the PIN number. By protecting your PIN, criminals do not have access to your account when card information is compromised (this method is useful when transacting at an ATM or Point of Sale).
  2. inContact: Ensure you have inContact activated on all your transactional accounts (credit cards, cheque cards etc.) to ensure that you always know when fraudulent activity takes place on your account/s.
  3. Stand close to the ATM and use your body as a shield and extra security to protect your Card and PIN.
  4. Do not accept assistance, guidance or allow anyone to interfere with your transaction - fraudsters sometimes pose as bank officials by offering assistance or interfering with your transaction.
  5. Only insert the card when the ATM prompts you to do so - fraudsters jam ATMs to create confusion with customers.
  6. Control your exposure in terms of daily ATM limits - lower your daily ATM limits if the limit is set at a level unrealistic to what you would usually spend.
  7. Don't allow anyone to call you back to the ATM after transacting, requesting you to insert your card into the ATM again - fraudsters use this technique to confuse customers who've already finalised their transactions and are busy walking away from the ATM.
  8. Be observant of your surroundings when transacting at the ATM - Leave the ATM immediately if you feel unsafe or when suspicious people are loitering around the ATM.
  9. Use ATMs you are familiar with and do not use ATMs in secluded areas or late at night.
  10. Report any suspicious activity/tampering at the ATM to your bank immediately.
  11. Check the card scanner slot: Give it a wiggle. Often skimming devices are false panels that can be detected and will come lose.
  12. Choose your ATM carefully: Use ATMs in high traffic areas that are well lit.
  13. Never force your card into an ATM slot.
  14. If your card is trapped or swallowed by an ATM, do not leave the ATM. Call the bank card stop number immediately to cancel the card before leaving the ATM.
  15. Do not accept an offer to use someone else's phone when phoning your bank to cancel your card.

Are there specific places where I need to be more vigilant?

Firstly - you need to ALWAYS be vigilant, no matter where you are. But there are specific places where you need to be particularly aware of what's going on around you.

Common points of compromise are places with high volumes of clients, such as:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Retail stores
  • Tollgates
  • Busy entertainment areas
  • ATMs (skimmers roam around looking for victims)
  • Places where no video footage is available and are difficult to monitor.

Bank customers are particularly urged not to accept assistance from anybody at ATMs, nor to let their cards out of sight when transacting.

What about when I'm shopping or eating out?

  1. Don't lose sight of your card when paying at the till.
  2. Shield yourself when inserting a PIN at any till.
  3. Make sure that you take your card and receipt after a purchase or withdrawal at a till.
  4. Don't lose sight of your card when you pay for your meal at a restaurant - request for the machine to be brought to your table.
  5. Make sure that your card is only swiped once and not swapped, especially when eating out.
  6. Don't be distracted, intimidated or rushed into your transactions.
  7. Only use reputable and safe websites and never give out your banking information when shopping online.

Are there specific times of the year when I need to be more vigilant?

Yes, during the festive season most types of fraud increase due to the fact that possible victims are :

  1. More relaxed
  2. More prone to spend lots of money
  3. More likely to have received a bonus
  4. Spending time in new and unfamiliar places where they won't necessarily spot anything out of the ordinary

Are there any general safety tips I need to be aware of?


  1. Treat your card as you would cash - never let it out of your sight.
  2. Don't give your secret PIN to anyone.
  3. Memorise your bank card PIN and never write it down.
  4. Don't accept help from anyone at an ATM.
  5. Don't respond to emails that require you to submit your account number, card number or expiry date of your card.
  6. Don't let your friends or family use your cards.
  7. Know your daily withdrawal limits on all your accounts.
  8. Register for inContact from FNB, our free instant SMS service that notifies you every time your card is swiped or when cash is withdrawn from your account.
  9. Have the FNB Card Cancellations number on hand: 0800 110 132 or +27 11 369 1189 (international).
  10. Be on the lookout for skimming devices.
  11. Keep an eye on your statement: Check your bank and credit card statements regularly and thoroughly to see if there has been fraudulent activity.

What should I do if I suspect my card has been skimmed?

Whether skimmed, stolen or lost:

  • Please immediately phone the FNB Card Cancellations Call Centre: 0800 110 132 or +27 11 369 1189 (international).
  • You can also phone the Visa Global Customer Care Assistance number: 0800 990 475
  • You can cancel your Debit Card at any FNB ATM by simply entering your ID number and the PIN number of the last debit card used.
Security Centre