Cash machines 'vulnerable'

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(First Edition)

Banks are 'closing their eyes' to fraud from hole-in-the wall cash machines, the Consumers' Association says today. Thurs. They refuse to acknowledge that the machines are not thief-proof and try to blame customers for losses.

A survey in Which? magazine claims the UK's 18,700 cash dispensers are vulnerable to several types of fraud, contradicting bank claims that it is impossible to withdraw money unless thieves have access both to a customer's cash card and his personal identification number (PIN).

At least pounds 2.5m was lost through cash machine fraud last year, but this may be higher because banks are often unwilling to reveal the full details of fraud by staff, according to Which? Cases involving crooked bank staff, unscrupulous computer experts and organised gangs show that the machines can be 'cracked.'

Last year, for example, Abbey National called in the police after raids on machines led to complaints from customers of money disappearing from their accounts. Staff complicity in the thefts has now been ruled out but police have still not discovered the culprits, says the magazine.

Graeme Jacobs, a senior researcher for Which?, said:'The very fact that such crimes happened at all demonstrates , all too graphically, that cash machines are not 100 per cent secure.'

There are 3.24 million cash machine transaction every day. Among the cases of fraud listed in the survey are a TSB employee who issued a duplicate cash card to himself; a Clydesdale Bank computer expert who recorded customers' transactions on a hand-held computer, noted their PINs from inside the bank and made his own cash cards; and a gang which claimed to have stood in queues, noted customers' PINs, picked up discarded cash receipts and used commercially-available computer equipment to copy the information on to blank cards.