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Debunked: No, pressing ‘cancel’ twice on an ATM won’t prevent your PIN from being stolen

The false safety tip has been shared over 19,000 times on Facebook.

YOU MAY HAVE seen a post circulating on social media claiming that you can stop ATM scammers from stealing your PIN code if you press the ‘cancel’ button on the keypad twice before you put your card in. 

There are plenty of ATM scams out there, but unfortunately, this false safety hack shared over 19,000 times on Facebook won’t protect you from any of them. 

The post, claiming to be a message from a banker, reads: 

“A very useful tip while withdrawing funds from an ATM. Press ‘cancel’ button twice before inserting the card. If anyone has set-up the keypad to steal your PIN code, this will cancel that set-up. 

Please make it a habit and part of every transaction that you make. Please share with family and friends whom you care.”

Screenshot 2020-07-16 at 12.49.06

The advice from the alleged ‘banker’ does not specify what form of ATM fraud it supposedly prevents.

The security advice offered by the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, and the Central Bank all outline a variety of ways in which you can protect yourself from scammers – the method of double pressing the cancel button is not one of them. 

TheJournal.ie contacted BPFI to verify whether it was aware of this advice or had ever recommended ATM users press cancel twice to prevent their PINs from being stolen. 

The BPFI confirmed that this is “indeed a myth”. 

Some of the more common ATM scams in Ireland include: 

1. The installation of a card skimming device over or in an ATM card reader and a small hidden camera is used to see what PIN you enter.

2. The use of a fake keypad over the real one which can record the numbers you enter.

3. Card trapping ( i.e where a device is placed over or in the card reader of an ATM to trick people into thinking the machine has eaten their card). 

The BPFI offered some additional ATM safety recommendations to rely on instead:

  • Keep your card in a safe place at all times. Do not leave it lying around. Report it to your bank immediately if it is lost or stolen.
  • Keep your PIN safe. Do not write it down, keep it with your card or give it to anyone.
  • Sign any new cards as soon as they arrive from your bank or card issuer. Ensure that you cut up the old cards as soon as the new ones become valid.
  • Cover your PIN when making in-store purchases or using an ATM. Use your free hand or your wallet to shield the PIN pad as you enter it.
  • Keep your card in sight when paying for goods or services. If the till is not nearby, go with the staff member to make the payment.
  • Retain receipts to reconcile them against your card or bank statement. Check your account regularly and report any suspicious or unrecognised transactions immediately.
  • Remember, if you do not protect your payment card or PIN, or if you give them to someone else, you may be held liable for any unauthorised transactions.

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Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 

STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie

About the author:

Adam Daly

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