Scam alert: Thieves target drivers at pay-and-display machines


Scam alert: Thieves claiming parking machines swallowed their bank cards are making off with sympathetic motorists’ cards and ‘stealing thousands of pounds in minutes’

  • Richmond Council has reported a rise in card thefts at parking payment machines in recent weeks in Kew, Twickenham and Teddington
  • It says latest cases have seen criminals steal thousands of pounds in minutes
  • UK Finance originally raised cases of the ‘low-tech’ scam in October 2019
  • It is impossible for parking payment machines to swallow cards, say councils
  • Motorists should also be aware of fraudsters impersonating car park attendants 

A wave of ‘low-tech’ bank card thefts at pay-and-display machines and car parks has seen drivers lose thousands of pounds in a matter of minutes. 

Criminals impersonating needy members of the public claim the parking machines swallowed their bank cards when trying to make a payment, before making off with the debit and credit cards of unwitting helpful motorists who try to pay for them.

The scam, which was first highlighted by This is Money over a year ago, claimed a number of victims in London’s Richmond, according to local police investigating a series of such offences. 

Scam alert: Drivers are warned to be extra vigilant at car parking machines after Richmond Council said it had seen a rise in cases of thefts of bank cards by criminals

Scam alert: Drivers are warned to be extra vigilant at car parking machines after Richmond Council said it had seen a rise in cases of thefts of bank cards by criminals

In some cases, criminals impersonate car park attendants and tell victims they face a fine and frogmarch them to a card machine.

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The victim is distracted while inserting their card – before it is stolen, according to UK Finance.

But the more common scenario is that criminals dupe victims by claiming to have forgotten their cards or had a machine them, then offer cash in exchange for borrowing a card from an unwitting motorist who also intends to use the card-payment-only machines.

Drivers are warned not to fall for the relatively rudimentary tactic, with officials explaining it is impossible for the machines to ‘swallow’ bank cards during payment. 

Richmond Council said it has received several reports of the scam being used in the last few weeks at locations in Kew, Twickenham and Teddington.

It said scammers successfully stole thousands of pounds within a few minutes of getting away with a driver’s bank card. 

Both Richmond Council and Richmond Police have shared details of the scam to warn motorists paying for parking in the area

Both Richmond Council and Richmond Police have shared details of the scam to warn motorists paying for parking in the area

The council said: ‘Motorists are reminded that it impossible for a parking meter machine to swallow bank cards as Pay and Display machines are manufactured so that cards can only be inserted part of the way. 

‘If your card disappears, you have been victim of fraud and should contact your bank immediately. 

‘If anyone approaches you when you go to pay for parking please be cautious and never insert your card into a parking machine when someone you do not know is present.’

Councillor Alexander Ehmann, chair of the Transport and Air Quality Committee for Richmond Council, added: ‘Until the criminals are caught please take extra care to be on guard against scammers and tell your friends and family, who might not have seen this warning message, to be careful too.

‘We will be working with local police Safer Neighbourhoods Teams to put a stop to these crimes.

‘In the meantime, please try to use contactless payments or cash at parking machines or use RingGo. If you think you might have fallen victim to this scam, contact your bank immediately to cancel your bank card.’

DVLA’s five top tips to spot if a text or email is phony

1. Never share driving licence images and vehicle documents online

2. Never share bank details or personal data online

3. Avoid websites offering to connect to DVLA’s contact centre

4. Only use GOV.UK when looking for DVLA contact details

5. Immediately report it to the police via Action Fraud if you think you have been the victim of a scam

Banking industry group UK Finance urged people to be wary of anyone who makes an approach at a card machine, be it for paying for parking or when using a cashpoint. 

The Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency recently warned drivers to remain extra vigilant of fradulent texts and emails impersonating the government agency.

It saw a 603 per cent jump in scam activity in the last 12 months and warned drivers to be alert to the deceitful tricksters behind the false communications, which commonly ask drivers to verify their driving licence details, offer vehicle tax refunds, or highlight a failed vehicle tax payment and ask for bank details.

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It outlined five steps for how to identify if you’re being singled-out by con artists and what you need to do about it.

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