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Thieves “shoulder surf” victims to learn their PIN before stealing their phones

Detective Superintendent John Roch, head of economic crime at the Metropolitan Police in London, warned the public about the criminals who are getting smarter at targeting victims to gain access to banking apps on mobile phones.

Detective Superintendent John Roch said the technology behind the apps is secure but criminals are getting better at exploiting human behaviour.

Thieves typically “shoulder surf” victims to catch them entering their PIN before stealing the phone.

The financial impact of the crime can be enormous.

“It’s only a phone… but if you take that out without the right precautions and protections around it you are essentially walking around with a bag of cash,” Detective Superintendent Roch said.

“If you start to think of it like that, would you walk into a bar, put it down and turn your back on it? Probably not.”

Detective Superintendent Roch said it is impossible to know how many victims there are, but while he believes the scale of the crime might be small the impact of it could be huge.

“It’s not on a massive scale, it’s a crime that exists and we do see it… [but] the potential outcome is devastating for victims,” he said.

“Because should a criminal be successful in getting into the phone and then getting into the bank apps, they have access to have your whole savings, your whole life, whatever it is that you have stored on that financial app”.

Jake Moore, who works for cyber security company ESET and used to head up Dorset Police’s digital forensics unit, said criminals will often “shoulder surf” a victim to learn their PIN before they steal the phone, either through mugging, pickpocketing or drink spiking.

They then use the PIN to unlock the phone and try the same PIN to access banking apps. They will also search the phone’s notes section for banking passwords or PINs.

(Source: BBC)

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