Questions of Cash: It must be possible to come up with a way of beating ATM crooks


Q: I was very interested in the questions and answers about ATM security (Questions of Cash, 11 May and 25 May).  I don’t understand why the construction of ATMs makes it possible to fit “skimming “ devices. Why cannot the ATMs be designed or modified to stop the devices being fitted? PS, Twickenham.

A: As manufacturers’ security systems become more sophisticated, so criminal gangs respond by becoming more sophisticated in their use of technologies to counter improved security. NCR is the world’s largest manufacturer of ATMs and it has just launched its “Skimming Protection Solution”, which is being adopted by the Nationwide Building Society. A spokesman for NCR says: “We recently launched a new system that will protect consumers from skimming by blocking criminal electronic ‘listening’ devices from capturing card data. The new technology also prohibits criminals from tampering with or removing the original cash machine bezel and helps promptly detect fraudulent devices.” The system provides constant reports to ATM providers advising whether security has been breached. NCR’s spokesman adds: “Criminals look for the weakest link to target consumers and defraud banks, which is why NCR considers security to be one of the primary pillars of its research and development efforts. Beyond technology, the financial industry needs a co-ordinated response to fraud that supports technology innovation with a combination of people and processes to secure the ATM against evolving threats. That’s why NCR collaborates with law-enforcement agencies and ATM operators to share best practices and raise awareness about new ATM crime incidents around the world. Consumers can even help protect themselves by being aware at the ATM, including covering the key pad while entering their PIN.”

Q: I have been a loyal customer of Three Mobile since 2009 and had a 24-month contract that ended on 13 November last year.  I phoned Three Mobile before the contract ended, requesting cancellation and for a PAC code [to transfer provider while using the same phone number] to be issued.  I was given a PAC code and told it was valid for 30 days.  Subsequently I took out a SIM-only contract with Three Mobile, starting 22 November.  I was told I could not use the PAC code to transfer between Three Mobile contracts, so I accepted a new phone number and allowed the PAC code to lapse. I assumed that as I had given an instruction to cancel the old contract this would be carried out. But I recently applied for a remortgage and was turned down because of a “credit issue’”.  I conducted a credit check and found I had been flagged by Three Mobile. I phoned Three Mobile and was told that as I had not used the PAC code from my old account, the account had been reactivated.  I was not told about this, nor have I received any bills since closing the account. Apparently bills were sent to an old address, where I have not lived for a year.  When I complained, I was told the account had been transferred to a debt-collection agency. Three Mobile also now tells me that I was sent terms and conditions attached to the PAC code, which stated that the contract would not be terminated if the PAC code was not used. I have now been told that my Three Mobile contract will be closed, but that I remain liable for the outstanding debt.  If I cannot obtain a remortgage my interest rate will rise from 2.4 per cent to 3.99 per cent, costing an extra  £180 a month. I stand to lose £32,400 over the term of the mortgage. JK, by email.

A: Three Mobile is waiving the balance of the debt on your old contract and agreed to remove the negative entry on your credit report, so you should be able to obtain your remortgage. However, Three suggests the problems are partly your own fault for, it claims, continuing to use the old account and phone number after you requested it was cancelled.

Q: I have been a customer and member of Nationwide Building Society for many years, using its credit card.  I have almost always paid off the whole balance each month. Apparently my 14 January statement showed a reduced credit limit, but I did not notice that. On  25 January I received a letter telling me that my credit limit had been reduced to £3,150 with effect from 14 January. By this time I had unwittingly exceeded this new limit. On 26 January I received a telephone call from Nationwide’s collections department. They could not explain the limit change, so I complained about the situation and the lack of notice. I duly reduced the balance owing and wrote three letters of complaint, none of which was replied to.  I am very unhappy with – and insulted by – this treatment. RG, Scotland.

A: Nationwide says the letter of notification of your reduced credit limit that you received on  25 January was posted on  14 January and it was this delay which caused you to exceed your reduced credit limit. Nationwide’s spokesman explains: “The reduction of [the reader’s] limit followed a review of his credit file, which highlighted a previous debt on a current account.” That issue has now been resolved, allowing Nationwide to raise your credit up to £5,000. It is refunding the  £12 fee imposed for exceeding your credit limit and is also offering a compensation payment of £100 in recognition of its failure to respond to your correspondence.