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The Daily Mail



By Sean Poulter and Helena Iveson

CRIME gangs have developed a new way to steal bank customers' debit card details in a sting which could make them tens of millions of pounds.  Thieves are effectively hijacking the card swipe mechanisms used by customers to get through the lobby security doors on High Street banks.  The scam has been tried at 30 HSBC branches and others operated by the major banks and building societies.  Many banks have lobby areas which customers can enter outside business hours to use cash machines.  In order to unlock and get through the doors, they have to run their debit card through a swipe machine on the outside.  But the criminals have substituted their own machines for the swipe mechanisms, which allows them to read and steal the details of every customer who tries the doors.  


In some cases, gang members have then directed customers to the real card swipe machine and followed them into the lobby to peer over their shoulder and see the PIN number used in the cash machine.  As a result, counterfeit cards created by the gangs can then be used to take out large sums of money from cash machines as well as make purchases.  Often the problem does not come to light until weeks or months later when unauthorised transactions are made with the fake cards.  HSBC said it had been working with the police and the banking industry to block the sting.  It said police had made close to 30 arrests in London, the South-East of England and some other parts of the country.  A spokesman said: 'We are issuing guidance to our customers urging people to be vigilant and make sure they keep their PIN number secure at all times.  'If you find that swiping the card through the mechanism does not unlock the doors, you need to think that this may be the reason.  'If you have any reason to be suspicious, you should move away to a safe distance and report the card lost or stolen straight away.'  


Card fraud costs more than £400million a year, but the industry believes moves to replace existing cards with others which have a microchip embedded in them should make copying much more difficult.  At the same time, a plan to replace signatures with a PIN number should reduce fraud.

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