Cash machine users in Leeds are falling prey to a new ATM scam known as the ‘Lebanese Loop’.
Shoppers and visitors in the city centre are being urged to stay alert after anti-crime campaigners revealed a rise in the number of people being duped by unscrupulous fraudsters targeting the city’s cashpoints.
The latest con uses strips or sleeves made out of metal or plastic, which block card slots at ATMs.
The cards are retained by the machine and collected by the fraudster after the customer leaves the scene.
Some criminals even offer to help, watching and memorizing the number as the victim re-enters their PIN.
Business Against Crime in Leeds (BACIL) is calling on people to protect themselves against this new type of criminal activity in the city.
Sean Walker, BACIL manager, said: “We are urging ATM users to be extra vigilant when withdrawing cash, by shielding the keypad whilst they enter their PIN and to be aware of anyone acting suspiciously around them.
“If your card does get swallowed for no apparent reason then stay by the machine while you ring your bank to cancel it and notify the police.
“You cannot usually see ‘Lebanese Loop’ devices; however, you may be able to feel something unusual over the slot or above the machine itself.”
A growing number of criminals have also been targeting the city’s shops and bars in a separate scam called ‘Change Ringing’, where con artists try to persuade members of staff to change high denomination notes for them through the till.
The scammer then engages in conversation and uses sleight of hand to confuse the assistant into changing further notes until they end up with significantly more money than they came in with.
Staff are being advised to turn down customers with such requests.
Mr Walker added: “Despite these incidents however, Leeds crime figures are down by 15 per cent year-on-year for the first half of 2015, with incidents of theft down by 199 over the last six weeks in the city centre and south Leeds areas.”
BACIL is a partnership body made up of Leeds City Council, West Yorkshire Police, Safer Leeds and more than 330 businesses in the city.