The Central City Improvement District (CCID) says ATM fraud in the city centre is on the rise, and has warned visitors to be alert.
This after two known ATM fraudsters were arrested last Tuesday, January 25.
The scammers – three of them – were spotted by an undercover officer who formed part of a task team dealing with ATM fraud, following tourists to a fast-food outlet in Adderley Street.
The task team, set up by the provincial government in 2017 to attempt to curb ATM scams, is made up of the CCID, SAPS, Cape Town Tourism and the City of Cape Town’s law enforcement division, representatives of the hospitality industry, the National Prosecuting Authority and bank fraud investigators, to investigate the province’s increasing prevalence of ATM fraud.
CCID safety and security manager, Muneeb Hendricks, said the CCID responded to the call from the officer immediately, and the fraudsters fled the scene, pursued by the public safety officers and other task team members.
“Two of the three fraudsters were caught and arrested. They were profiled at Cape Town Central police and one of the men was found to have an open warrant for his arrest for another case of ATM fraud.”
Mr Hendricks said ATM fraud had been one of the main petty crimes in the CBD before the pandemic struck.
“Scammers target tourists and other visitors, and now that we are seeing an uptake in the number of local and foreign tourists as Covid-19 travel restrictions ease, it has increased.”
He said in the past, scammers used to lure visitors to ATMs by trying to convince them that they needed a “permit” to walk in the streets, especially if there was a film shoot taking place nearby.
They would then direct the visitors to ATMs, where these “permits” could supposedly be issued. Once at the ATM, the visitors PIN would be noted and the cards either swapped or stolen with huge amounts of money being drawn from the machine fraudulently.
Now, he said, the visitors are being lured to ATMs and told that they need a “Covid-19 permit” to walk in the streets, and this “permit” is available at an ATM machine, or in this case, at a vending machine such as the one inside McDonald’s, where customers order and pay for menu items via a vending machine.
“We are dealing with sophisticated scammers who dress up as security guards, usually in black, and even have fake badges made to appear legitimate. In this case, we found a “security badge” in the fraudsters’ getaway vehicle.“
He said the CCID was having meetings with other stakeholders, especially hotels in the CBD, and has carried out awareness campaigns at all major hotels in the city centre to inform and educate tourists about how to stay safe.
“We have 50 Tourism Ambassadors on duty at the entrance to hotels, handing out pamphlets with safety tips and educating tourists on ATM fraud.”
He urged visitors to be vigilant.
“You do not need a “permit” to walk in the streets of the Cape Town CBD, nor do you need a “Covid-19” permit. Do not fall prey to this scam. Ignore potential fraudsters who try to lure you to an ATM or a vending machine or call the CCID security for assistance.
“Don’t allow your card to be removed from your sight and do not accept help from strangers at an ATM and never disclose your PIN, not even to persons claiming to be bank officials. Watch out for people looking over your shoulder at an ATM, and make sure you are not followed after a transaction.”
Cape Town Central police did not comment about ATM fraud in the city centre and Cape Town Tourism referred the CapeTowner to the CCID for comment.
The provincial government also declined to comment.