Cashpoint alert as 'skimming' device found on city machine

BANK customers were today warned to be on guard against card-cloning scams after a man was arrested for allegedly trying to fit a device to a cash machine in Edinburgh.

The alert follows the discovery of the "skimming" device attached to a Bank of Scotland dispenser in the south of the city.

Only an eagle-eyed passer-by, who noticed the machine had been tampered with, prevented dozens of customers using the Buckstone Terrace facility from being ripped off by fraudsters.

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The police's Specialist Fraud Unit today cautioned the public to remain on guard against the scam despite the national launch of the new chip and pin system today.

Experts hope the scheme will reduce cases of fraud by boosting security protection, but officers warned that it will not fully eradicate the threat of card-cloning. They say the crime - which uses virtually undetectable technology - is on the rise in the Lothians.

In the most recent case, an off-duty bank worker became suspicious while using the Bank of Scotland cash machine in Buckstone and called police at about 7pm on Sunday. A man loitering nearby was detained by police.

The machine had been fitted with a dummy card slot, which reads and saves the data on the magnetic strip when the card is pushed in, before the card is fed into the real machine.

A tiny camera was also placed above the screen to record users entering their pin number. Fraudsters can then use the data to clone the card, then sell on the fraudulent card to other criminals or empty bank accounts using machines across the country.

Detective Sergeant Keith Millar, of the Specialist Fraud Unit, said: "Customers have to be very aware of this scam. We urge people to examine the machine for anything that looks suspicious. Some people may not realise they have been the victims of a fraud until they check their bank statement."

DS Millar said that the scams were mostly carried out by organised criminal gangs, with the "vast majority" coming from Eastern Europe. Fraud officers will monitor the effect of the chip and pin system on reducing card cloning but warned it will not end the practice.

"The system will make it more difficult to carry out frauds in person in places like shops," said DS Millar. "But skimming devices will still work on ATMs."

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A spokesman for chip and pin promoters Association of Payment Clearance System, said statistics showed that skimming crimes were continuing to increase, with ATM fraud topping 74 million in 2004.

He added: "The vast majority of cash machine transactions that take place are fraud-free but, if you are unfortunate enough to be the innocent victim of this type of fraud, you will be fully refunded by your bank."

A Bank of Scotland spokesman said the device had been recovered so it was unlikely any of its customer had been defrauded. He added: "We would advise our customers to be on the look-out for suspicious devices attached to cash machines. If they notice one of the devices they can report it to their branch or police station."

• A 27-year-old man was due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday in connection with the incident.