Recently there have been several reports of ATM fraud in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The people who make up names for this sort of thing call it “skimming” — it’s when fraudsters fit an unauthorised device over the card slot on an ATM machine that makes a copy of your card when you insert it. Cameras, sometimes hidden in pamphlet holders, record your pin number as you type it in. It’s all very high-tech, in fact almost too much so to believe that it’s happening in Cambodia, but the American Embassy released a warning a few days ago confirming it.
Others in town have reported ATM machines eating their cards and being unable to immediately get them back — whether this is an attempt at fraud or just the to-be-expected leisureliness on the part of the bank is unclear.
The Australian Embassy also warns that tourists coming out from ATMs have been the target of some robberies.
Here are a few tips to prevent ATM card fraud while you are in Cambodia:
Make copies of your ATM card before you leave. This way if you lose it, you’ll have the details and contact number for your bank.
Look at the ATM that you are using carefully — make sure that everything looks right. If anything looks like it may have been added after the fact, for example, if the color of the slot seems to not match the rest of the machine, find another ATM.
Cover the number pad with your hand when you are typing in your pin. I always used to think my friends back home who did this were ninnies, but apparently this really can stop your information from being compromised.
Use ATMs that are well-lit or in central locations. You’re less likely to be the victim of a robbery or fraud with an ATM that is out in the open and harder to tamper with.
Be aware of your surroundings and watch your bag. And, lest our obsession with safety makes you nervous, let us assure you that Cambodia is probably a lot safer than wherever you are coming from, where they have probably already been pulling this ATM scam for years.
Previously, Lina has been based in Oakland, California, New York City, Dublin and London. Lina spends most of her time thinking about food, travel and synthpop. She's currently based in Siem Reap.