Inventors of plastic shield to stop cash machine skimming fear arrest

09/26/05

Two design engineers at the University of Warwick have devised a simple 250 UK pounds sterling plastic shield that could play a significant role in eliminating the card skimming cash machine fraud that costs banks tens of millions of pounds.

Falling technology cost and increasing technical sophistication of fraudsters have led to a boom in the criminal use of hidden cameras and card "skimming" devices being secreted on ATMs (cash machines) allowing fraudsters to obtain the electronic details and matching numbers of cash cards. Tens of millions of pounds are lost each year from the UK's network of 57,000 cash machines to this type of fraud. The banks have responded with a number of hi tech solutions to the problem using expensive convoluted solutions to try and disrupt the illegal cameras and skimmers but this simple University of Warwick design provides a much simpler cheaper and effective solution to the problem.

The two design engineers Kevin Pearson and Mark Rushton for the University of Warwick's Warwick Manufacturing Group, have devised a transparent plastic shield that can be securely retrofitted to existing ATMs or built-in to the design of future ATMs. Any attempt to attach a non transparent device such as a camera or skimmer on top of the shield then becomes impossible without being obvious to ATM users. It is also impossible to place a second fake shield on top of the first as the shield is positioned at a distance from the ATM card slot that just before the limit that the slot will accept and draw in the card. If the distance to the slot was increased any further the slot will not be able to draw in the card.

The Warwick design team have patented their design. They have also won 10,000 pounds worth of development funding from the "Mercia Spinner" (an initiative run by the University of Warwick's Warwick ventures department and funded by Advantage West Midlands designed to create technology based "spin out" companies.

This has allowed them to produce some small scale models of the shield but they now face a problem. They would like to produce a full scale model of the shield made exactly to the measurements of the most ATMs for further testing but they can't get the exact dimensions of an ATM without going up to an actual machine and measuring it up - which will naturally draw suspicion that they themselves are engaged in some sort of fraudulent enterprise. Hopefully one of the banks or ATM manufacturers will see the potential of working with them to help devise a full prototype before the designers have to risk arrest?

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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