FACT CHECK: No, pressing 'cancel' twice at an ATM does not protect against fraud

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 22 2019 04:59 PM

Misleading advice shared on Facebook across continents claims that pressing “cancel” twice before withdrawing cash at an ATM protects users from card information theft. The claim is false and an industry expert told AFP, “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Press ‘cancel’ button twice before inserting the card. If anyone has set up the key pad to steal your PIN code, this will cancel that set up”, advises a message shared on Facebook in English, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese and French.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on February 20, 2019
Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on February 20, 2019

"It doesn't make any sense," Curt Binns, Canada Executive Director of the ATM Industry Association, a non-profit association that represents the ATM industry globally, told AFP.

However, a type of fraud involving ATMs, also known as skimming, is a real threat worldwide. This kind of scam involves the installation of an overlay that looks similar to the actual ATM, but it copies the PIN and the card details. The stolen information is used to print a clone of the card that can then be used fraudulently.

According to Binns, “skimming has been around for a while. It used to be very bad in Canada (...), but now it’s more present in developing countries where it’s relatively new.

Screenshot of an FBI web page on February 20, 2019

The exact same misleading advice has been circulating in India and Mexico, two countries where skimming scams are the most common, according to Binns.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on February 20, 2019

Contacted by AFP about claims that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) advised people to press cancel twice, Jose Kattoor, a spokesperson for the RBI, also confirmed, “this news is false.”

Manipal Technologies Limited, India’s largest bank card manufacturer, also told AFP that it was not necessary to press ‘cancel’ twice to protect from fraud.

In the United States, where the problem persists, the FBI launched a National Skimming Initiative to combat the problem in June 2018.

The best way to prevent this kind of fraud is to physically probe the ATM, Binns says. 

"If I use an ATM, wherever the location, I put my hand on the skimmer and give it a pull or a shove or move it up and down. If that's a fake device, it will easily come off and I'll know the machine was compromised. But pressing cancel two times doesn't do anything," he insisted.