The City of London Police's Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Card Unit (DCPCU) is warning of a new ATM fraud where criminals use an invisible ‘cash claw’ to steal money.
The crime starts when criminal gang members use a pre-pay card to withdraw a small amount of money.
During the transaction they insert a thin metal instrument into the cash dispenser so that it sits inside the machinery, just behind the cash dispenser shutter, making it invisible to a customer.
This claw forms an obstruction to the path that cash normally follows - in effect preventing the cash from being dispensed completely.
The criminal who stages this then leaves while an associate monitors the machine until a cardholder attempts a withdrawal.
Of course the cash becomes trapped in the 'claw'. When the customer gives up on their transaction and moves on, the gang quickly move in to force the dispenser shutter and remove the cash.
The 'Cash Claw' first came to the notice of the UK banking industry in April after its use had been reported in Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands - shortly after there came evidence of its use in the UK.
Confirmed cases are now said to be "rising exponentially" with London, including City, the most affected.
Crime prevention officer Tony Blake from the DCPCU said: “The ‘cash claw’ is just the latest attempt by small-time crime gangs to steal customers' and their banks' money directly out of the cash machine. The industry has quickly wised up to this new methodology and is working alongside us to catch those responsible, and to make it much more difficult for anyone looking to follow in their footsteps.”