FRAUDSTERS have devised a new scam to con users of 'hole-in-the-wall' cash machines.
The gang has struck at least six times in the past week and stolen €30,000 from the accounts of cardholders.
Officers from the Garda National Fraud Bureau believe Eastern European criminals are behind the latest scam, which targets mainly elderly and vulnerable bank customers.
Gardai and the Irish Payment Services Organisation (IPSO) last night warned customers to be extra vigilant at ATMs and be aware of the whereabouts of their cards at all times, especially if someone attempts to distract them.
The gang operates by placing a device on the ATM, which traps the user's card in the machine slot.
One of the criminals then "shoulder surfs" as the unsuspecting customer keys in their PIN and, after withdrawing the cash, the customer realises the card is not coming out of the machine.
The criminal then offers to help to retrieve the card, but while the customer is distracted he hands back a substitute card, which is similar to the one lodged in the slot.
All of the replacement cards used so far, according to the PISO, have turned out to have been previously stolen and cancelled.
The victim does not realise that they are in possession of the substitute card until they try to use it again.
In the meantime, the criminal removes the genuine card from the trap and withdraws as much cash as possible from the victim's account until the card has been reported as stolen.
The gang has also been using the stolen cards and PINs in bank kiosks to transfer monies to foreign accounts.
Total losses so far are estimated at €30,000, but IPSO and the gardai acknowledge other scams may have taken place that have not yet come to light.
The fraud is a rehash of an old scam where gangs robbed ATM users for several weeks before they were arrested.
In the original scam, a member of the gang dropped a €5 note on the ground and then asked the customer if they owned the money. While the customer was distracted, the PIN and card details were obtained by the fraudsters.
Last night, IPSO asked the public to warn elderly or vulnerable friends and family members about the scam.
The organisation said customers should cover the PIN pad when using the ATM and report any unusual activity to their bank while also asking for a check on their account to ensure no unauthorised cash withdrawals had taken place.
Gardai also warned cash machine users to be aware of "shoulder surfers".