ATM thieves use glue and 'tap' function to drain accounts at Chase Bank

ByMichael Finney KGO logo
Saturday, March 4, 2023
ATM thieves use glue and 'tap' function to drain accounts at Chase
There's a new warning for those who use the "tap" function at ATMs.

SAN FRANCISCO -- ATMs provide great convenience -- but they're also longtime targets of thieves. Some use skimmers to steal your account number, or stand nearby to rob customers. Now there's a new kind of ATM fraud -- and a warning to watch out if you use the "tap" function on your debit card.

The tap feature uses radio waves to access your account -- no need to insert your card. But, some Chase Bank customers say thieves used the tap feature plus some ordinary glue to steal their money.

Pamela Bongiorno shows 7 On Your Side with our sister station, ABC7 News, how she got scammed at this ATM. "So I was using the ATM machine on the right hand side," she said. "My partner was here, the guy next to him was here. I inserted my card, it didn't work."

Then, a man in line offered advice.

"'Oh, if you have a chip in your card, you could tap it,'" Bongiorno said.

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So Bongiorno tapped her card. This time it worked. She got her cash, thanked the man and walked off.

"And then the next morning I look at my bank account..." she said.

To her shock, Bongiorno saw three more withdrawals from her account -- $940 was gone.

"I said to my partner, 'That guy scammed me last night,'" she said.

The same thing happened to Rob Bell at the same ATM. When the card reader didn't work, a man leaned in.

"I didn't think anything of it, I just thought he was using the ATM," Bell said. "'There's a problem with the slot function. You have to use the tap function.'"

So, Bell tapped his card, took his cash and walked off. Later he found two accounts had been drained -- $560 gone.

Justin Sindelar tapped his Apple watch at that ATM, and withdrew $40.

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Later, he found five more withdrawals in a row -- $960 was gone.

"Wait a second, I definitely did not withdraw that much money," he said. "I think someone walked up to the ATM right after I used it...''

Victims complained to the bank manager.

"'I've reported this to the police, it's happening up and down Mission Street,'" Bongiorno said she was told.

The manager told Bongiorno how the scam works - it starts with glue.

"She told me that they put glue in the card reader of the ATM machines. So you can't, you can't use your card," she said.

So customers tap their card instead -- and here's the trick. When you tap, the account remains open for more transactions, unless the customer proactively logs out.

Some customers don't know this.

But scammers do.

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They wait for the victim to leave, then walk up and continue making withdrawals on their account.

All three victims filed a fraud claim with Chase Bank. All three were denied. The bank said the customers authorized those withdrawals.

"And that's definitely not true," said Sindelar.

"I said, 'This is ridiculous,'" Bongiorno said. "Why would I do four separate transactions right in a row? Right?"

"They should have a picture of who actually did," Bell said.

Victims said Chase would not review surveillance video because the amounts were below $5,000.

So Bongiorno filed her claim again.

And again, and again. Chase finally replaced her money.

And after our inquiries, the bank refunded Sindelar and Bell, too.

Chase told 7 On Your Side: "When using an ATM, be vigilant in protecting your PIN number and making sure you have logged out of your account."

"I will never use that little tap function again," Bongiorno said.

Chase did not say why multiple withdrawals did not trigger a fraud alert, or why the bank did not review surveillance video -- but each transaction requires entering a PIN -- which the thieves had apparently captured. So always, cover the keypad, and log out before you walk away.