South African criminal reveals how they steal your bank card at an ATM

ATMs make it possible for consumers to draw cash and transact 24 hours a day.

However, they come with risks. Criminals have devised various scams to steal money from ATM users, including card skimming, shoulder surfing, card swapping, and trapping cards.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) warned that millions of rand is stolen each year through ATM card scams.

eNCA’s CheckPoint interviewed one of the criminals involved in ATM card fraud, also known as Card-Card, to learn more about the practice.

How targets are selected

According to the scammer, they target ATM users who seem distracted and then offer their assistance.

The card stealing criminals do not differentiate on race, age, or gender. “As long as we can take your card and steal your PIN, you are a target,” he said.

Because of the amount of money he makes – up to R15,000 per day – he does not feel much guilt about his actions.

The images below show how an ATM user is “assisted” by the con artist, who steals her card.

The victim looks distracted, which gives the criminal a chance to strike.


The criminal offers their help, but is in fact stealing the victim’s PIN and card.

Card thief strikes

Stealing a target’s bank card and PIN

The criminal said they work in groups of two or three. “No one does it alone,” he said.

Their daily routine includes planning their crime and executing the plan the next day. They steal cards and money in morning and afternoon shifts.

The images below show how the criminals steal the cards of unsuspecting ATM users.

The criminal goes to the ATM and inserts his card as if he is drawing money.

He then uses the ATM mirrors to look for potential victims behind him.

Check mirrors

After he spots a potential victim, the criminal pretends to be drawing cash, and takes his card.

However, he leaves the slip in the ATM.

Leave slip

Before he leaves the ATM, he activates the cardless services option on the ATM, which locks up the card reader.

This prevents the victim from inserting their card.

Cardless mode

The cashless services option asks the person for a PIN when they arrive at the ATM, which the victim enters.

The criminal watches, and remembers the PIN of the victim.

Enter PIN

When the victim tries to insert their card into the ATM, the criminal claims his slip.

Demanding slip

When the victim tries to insert their card, it is blocked because the ATM is in cardless mode.

Slot reader locked

The criminal now “helps” the victim, telling them they must press C. They typically ask “what is C”, and he tells them “Cancel”.

After the cardless mode is cancelled, the ATM goes back to normal.

Press C

When the ATM goes “back to normal”, the criminal tells the victim to lift their card up when trying to insert it.

This is a distraction.


The criminal then helps with the lifting of the card when inserting it into the card slot.

Lift the card

The criminal then steals the card from the victim, while their eyes are on the screen.

After stealing the card, the criminal covers it with their wallet.

Steals card

How to protect yourself at an ATM

Sabric provided the following tips to protect yourself when drawing money at an ATM.

  • Do not ask anyone to assist you at the ATM.
  • Do not insert your card if the screen layout is not familiar to you.
  • Don’t use ATMs where the card slot, keypad, or screen has been tampered with.
  • Don’t let anyone stand close to you while you use an ATM.
  • If you are disturbed whilst transacting at an ATM, your card may be skimmed. Cancel the transaction immediately and report the incident using your bank’s Stop Card number.
  • If you have been disturbed whilst transacting, change your PIN or stop the card.

Watch the full eNCA interview here

More on card fraud

How ATM card skimmers work

Watch out for these card skimming and PIN theft tricks criminals use

The new way criminals are card skimming at ATMs

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South African criminal reveals how they steal your bank card at an ATM