Card cloning: how to avoid being caught out by cash machine fraudsters

Card cloner
Credit: Benderton from Reddit

Card cloning; it’s very much a modern day problem, and it’s a pretty big problem. It’s much easier to do than you might think. You could be caught out by card cloning and you wouldn’t even know it had happened. Hence, it’s all the more important that you know the signs and know how to avoid it happening to you.

For the criminals that employ this method, it is remarkably cheap and simple – but quite sophisticated and hard to spot. Reddit user Benderton, was lucky enough to spot a dodgy looking cash machine and shared what it looked like.

The card cloner (or skimmer) is designed to resemble the card slot on the cash machine and is fitted over the existing card slot. When you put your card into the machine, you are then unsuspectingly also pushing it through the cloner. The cloner gadget captures the data from the magnetic stripe on the back of a bank card. The data from you card is then stored for collection or transferred wirelessly to someone nearby. The scammer also needs your PIN to gain full access to your account (Hide your PIN!). This is either done by looking over your shoulder, a discrete camera, or a false keypad. All very clever.

There is another similar method called card trapping which also involves a device fitted to the card slot. This device prevents your card from being returned to you. The criminal then waits for you to leave the machine and removes the device and collects your card.

Key factor in these methods is that the fraudster requires your PIN, without this they can’t send your money.

The best way to protect yourself? Cover your PIN.


Keep your wits about you, make sure you hide your PIN and look out for the tell-tale signs.

Reddit users shared tips on how to spot a tampered cash machine:

• If the card slot wiggles or is damaged in any way, don’t use it.
• The card slot usually flashes green. If it flashes red or the light isn’t visible, be suspicious.
• These systems often work with someone nearby collecting data, so be aware of your surroundings.

Here’s the photo from Benderton’s experience.

I can honestly thank Reddit for this…

Watch a card cloning device being removed from an cash machine