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The rise in ATM-related crime has prompted a EU security agency to urge consumers to be more careful about withdrawing money from cash machines.

ENISA (European Network and Information Security Agency) estimates that annual cash machine losses in Europe have increased to around €500m, a 149 per cent increase year-on-year. ENISA blames more sophisticated attacks and fraud alongside the rapid growth in the number of ATMs for the increase.

A paper by ENISA entitled ATM Crime: Overview of the European situation and golden rules on how to avoid it contains tips on choosing which ATMs to use and other precautions.

Many of Europe's 400,000 ATMs (up six per cent since last year) are located in convenience stores, airports and petrol stations where they are at greater risk of tampering than those within banks or shopping malls. The UK, Spain, Germany, France and Italy collectively account for 72 per cent of these ATMs.

Fraudsters obtain card details and PINs using a wide range of tactics ranging from "shoulder surfing" to hardware skimmers. Other tactics include trapping and then retrieving users' cards. More recently the use of malware has been implicated in these scams. During 2008, a total of 10,302 skimming incidents were reported in Europe, ENISA reports.

Cybercrooks are also using phishing tactics to trick gullible marks into handing over PIN details as well as banking information.

Physical attacks have also increased by a third over the last year with tactics ranging from ram raids, rotary saws and even explosives brought into play.

"ATM crime is likely to become even more attractive as the latest generation of ATMs is designed to dispense other services and products such as phone top ups and stamps," said Andrea Pirotti, executive director at ENISA. "The first line of defence against ATM crime is increasing awareness of the risks so that users can take simple precautions such as shielding their PIN when entering it and by keeping alert to any signs of tampering or suspicious activity at an ATM."

The EU information security agency has drawn up a list of common sense rules on using ATM machines designed to offer the "maximum protection with minimum effort". The 15 top tips include advice such as using ATMs inside banks, rather than free-standing machines, selecting machines in well-lit areas, looking for signs of tampering before using a machine and checking bank statements afterwards.

"Information security has, for too long, been focusing on technical solutions to maximise protection," ENISA's Pirotti added. "Most ATM crime is focused on exploiting the human element and card holders must be more aware of the risks they are exposed to and how to prevent fraud occurring.

"We hope this latest report will be the start of an ongoing process to increase awareness and reduce the growing cost of ATM crime."

The full report is available here, as a pdf.®

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