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What is the ‘Lebanese Loop’ parking meter scam?

A member got in touch with us after they were approached by a man at a parking meter. Have you heard of the ‘Lebanese Loop’ parking meter scam?

A member was stopped by a man who pleaded with them to help him with a parking meter that wouldn’t accept a foreign card.

Unfortunately, they offered to use their card as the man said he’d be able to pay them back in cash.

He insisted on pressing the buttons, but let them type in their own Pin – which the member thought they had concealed from him.

Transaction void

The man then said that the transaction was void, and the card wouldn’t come out of the machine. He rang what he said was the number given on the meter and gave the member his phone to speak with the meter personnel.

They said that if a second credit card was inserted, it would force the first one out.

Of course upon trying this, the card did not come out. After the man left the member tried calling the number on their own phone – it was an automated message.

In 10 minutes the thieves had withdrawn £500 on each card. Fortunately, the bank refunded the amount.

How to get your money back after a scam

What is a ‘Lebanese Loop’?

It’s not too often you meet a scammer in ‘real life’ – more often they lurk behind a computer or on the end of a phone.

Since contacting us, the member reported the crime to the police and has told friends and family to watch out – spreading awareness is vital.

There have been other reports of this in London. A police warning described a suspected ‘Lebanese Loop’ – a device that captures cards while the suspect watches you enter your Pin.

Action Fraud told us the scam isn’t that common, but if it happens to you, contact your card provider and the police. If you’re ever entering your pin anywhere, even if it’s not in front of people, make sure you conceal it.

Have you ever been approached by a scammer in person? How did you deal with the situation?


Like many other scams this relies on the vulnerability of the victim, who, in this case decided to use a personal card in unusual circumstances. That is not to lay blame for being friendly and helpful to someone in distress, but, maybe, to criticize for getting into that situation. The scammer, seems to have doctored the machine in some way so that the card was retained. That takes some doing. Machines ought to be better protected if this can be done. I have never used a card to pay for parking and if cash is not accepted would not use that park, however inconvenient that might be. Neither would I use a telephone for payment. So far I have been lucky enough not to be inconvenienced, but I may be faced with a difficult decision one day and have to decide whether to park or simply move on and ruin a day. In a shop, the card is never “swallowed” and one can physically remove it. This should be the case with any machine except, perhaps the ATM which seems to need to read the magnetic strip rather than the hologram. This is yet another instance of the fact that we always have to be suspicious and never let our kinder side offer help. That’s sad.

There’s no reason why parking ticket machines shouldn’t accept contactless payments, particularly as the amounts nearly always below £30.

Furthermore, the story that foreign cards are not accepted has been somewhat implausible since 3rd December 2018, thanks to Article 5(1) of Regulation (EU) 2018/302, which states:

A trader shall not, within the range of means of payment accepted by the trader, apply, for reasons related to a customer’s nationality, place of residence or place of establishment, the location of the payment account, the place of establishment of the payment service provider or the place of issue of the payment instrument within the Union, different conditions for a payment transaction, where:

(a) the payment transaction is made through an electronic transaction by credit transfer, direct debit or a card-based payment instrument within the same payment brand and category;

(b) authentication requirements are fulfilled pursuant to Directive (EU) 2015/2366; and

(c) the payment transactions are in a currency that the trader accepts.

NFH – thanks very much for yet another example of how EU laws protect the rights of consumers.

As another example, I recently bought a secondhand copy of Microsoft Office. EU legal judgements treat the accompanying licence key as property that can be bought and sold like other lawfully acquired possessions. That. of course, is now the judgement that Microsoft wanted. They’d prefer to force purchasers of secondhand media to buy new keys, but that is now illegal under EU law.

As regards meeting scammers face-to-face, I think there’s a lot that going on right now, at hustings up and down the country.

So true…

Kevin says:
17 May 2019

NFH, you are describing how things ought to work, and referencing statutes which most people will not be familiar with.

Unfortunately, most people’s experience with finance related transactions, whether bank, insurance, mobile phones, travel – the list goes on – is that the company will exploit you to the limit of the law, and are quite happy to operate a consumer response system which will happily deny [at least initially] contract law, and any obligation they may have, regardless of the law.

Sadly, the only sane response to a person in distress is to offer cash, other physical help, or guidance to further ‘official’ support.

J Titley says:
18 May 2019

The grammar used to describe the scam initially was poor. It took several attempts to work out who he/they/them was or were!

I agree.

In my day job, I have experience of producing clear, simple and unambiguous text for safety instructions and/or training courses. From that basis, I often find that many others often do not achieve similar standards with their own efforts.

To be fair, when writing safety instructions, I’d normally get them peer checked by colleagues and by end users before settling on the exact final text. Hence I am content to give some leeway the Which? journalists who produce these blog articles.

Presumably you meant to write ‘leeway TO the Which? Journalists’?
Glass houses & rocks springs to mind!

Indeed. But isn’t their a eggspectation of hire quality for a leed article than any following replies from unpaid keen amateurs 😉 ?

Sintax is importanter than tiepoes…

I used to work for an IT company, writing documentation for their product. When an upgrade was launched, and sold with the old manuaI, I asked the MD if I should do the upgrade to the manual. “Why would you do that?” he asked. “They won’t realise until way after the money is in the bank.” I soon left his company but it continues

That does illustrate an issue with instruction manuals in general. Whenever we acquire something new the first step for me is to download the manual. Even then – incredibly – the manual is not always up to date, accurate or specific.

I now routinely contact companies where the manual is poor / incorrect / ropey and offer to re-write it for them or suggest a partial refund would be in order. Worryingly, the worst offenders in this respect are the major car companies. Why someone flogging you a car for £40k+ can’t be bothered to create a manual specific to your model when it’s online is something I find unacceptable.

Alan G says:
20 May 2019

That’s assuming you can get the manual. I was recently thinking of buying a Suzuki and thought I’d read the manual first. I couldn’t because to download the Suzuki manual you had to type in your car VIN (I think it was the VIN…). Why? What possible reason could there be for not making a car manual available publicly? It’s not like I can go out and buy a forgery or bootlegged version of a car…

what vaguely amuses me is when Taiwanese [and so on] companies spend £100,000 producing a motherboard for a computer, and then can’t be bothered to proof read the manual or leaflet that comes in the box.

Donald says:
18 May 2019

It’s worth pointing out that the Lebanese Loop is a mechanical device to retain the card in the machine. It is not a card skimming device which would read the card. See:


Cadgie says:
18 May 2019

My sister was phoned by a scammer trying to get details of her bank account. Whilst on the phone to the scammer, she had her husband phone her bank manager on another phone. She then put the two phones together so that the scammer was speaking to the bank manager. The scammer then tried to scam the bank manager! The bank manager was shocked at how plausible and convincing the scammer sounded; the conversation only ended when the scammer was unable to give the bank manager a “special” fraud code used by the bank. These scammers are professionals at their crime and are very difficult to detect.

TeddyB says:
18 May 2019

What is a Lebanese loop?You describe it as a device,but not what sort of a device.So how would I recognise one?This is not explained,so i am no wiser as to what it is.So I find this article unhelpful

Its a thin plastic strip inserted into the card slot so that when a card is inserted it stops the machine processing the card or ejecting it. The fraudster can then later retrieve the card using a tool to pull the plastic back out with the card. They then have use of your card.

Tony Gore says:
18 May 2019

Thanks for that description. Helpful as I only read the original article in the hope that it would describe what it was so I could watch out for it.

JanJ says:
18 May 2019

I’d agree with the view that one wants to help but must be very alert to any approach out of the ordinary and never use one’s own card to pay a stranger’s request. Despite legal consumer protections cards may be rejected for technical incompatabilty reasons. Back in 2014 I met an US colleague from my company, whom I knew, in Amsterdam. The ticket machine in the underground station refused to accept his credit card although it accepted mine because his card had only a magnetic strip and lacked a chip. (An amusing eyeopener for the American to find that his credit card wasn’t good enough in the EU!). Unless all cards contain a chip these days this is a possible reason why they may be declined – a technical incompatability. EU legal protections are critical protection to us all but they cannot block this situation.

If this person could pay him back in cash, why didn’t the person who was “scammed” suggest he pay by cash and not a card?? It is often suggested that it is the older person who falls foul of these evil people, well coming up to 73, not particularly old in this day & age, but I certainly would not have given any credit/debit card to a stranger!
I get quite a lot of phone calls from “companies” purporting to be genuine, but there are often tell tale signs that the call is not legitimate. One is the break between the time you pick up the phone and someone speaking. Rule of thumb; if you did not request a call, do not speak to them, politely state you are not interested, goodbye and put the phone down. Rarely do they call again!! Another way of dissuading them is when they speak, they will invariably call you by your Christian name, I then say I don’t know you, who gave you permission to use my Christian name. That invariably throws them and they put the phone down!

Penny Potter says:
18 May 2019

Alternatively, when they ask for someone by name, you say ‘one moment, I’ll just get them for you..’ then you put the phone under a cushion somewhere and go and make a cup of tea etc. Their call, their cost, they might try again with a different company but they eventually get fed up and the calls cease.

John says:
19 May 2019

Many of the parking meters in London no longer take cash. You have to pay either with a card, online or with a phone App. If you have just wasted 30 minutes trying to find a parking spot you are then faced with another 10 minutes trying to pay.

vince says:
20 May 2019

Having spent many working days trying to get sense out of BT commercially, they are not my favourite company, especially when you look at their domestic offerings – but
I must RECOMMEND the BT wireless handset that includes Call Minder – see monster URL link at the end.
This stops nuisance calls SO well, – happily, for me I bought about 5/6 years ago and it was only £30 then


heh we did this, unfortunately eventually they hung up and the phone started swooping because it was off it’s cradle, and the dog started barking at it.

The North East says:
18 May 2019

A scam that I was nearly taken in by only yesterday. I received a text purporting to be from the fraud department of my bank wishing to verify a transaction for a rather large amount to a retailer that I have had previous dealings with. Everything appeared to be correct; the name of the bank was correct, the name of the retailer was a retailer not too unfamiliar to me and would actually be my preferred choice when making a significant purchases as they provide a generous additional extension to original manufacturers warranty as standard (shouldn’t be too difficult to work out the retailer named in the bogus text), even the amount of the transaction matched worryingly too closely to the amount currently held in the account. I received the text after a long shift at work and it was close to 3am, I phoned the number provided in the bogus text. The call was picked up and had my bank’s automated answer message, “Thank you for calling ‘my bank’……” the message went on to state I was queued and I would get to speak to someone shortly. After around 30 seconds on hold, the call was discontinued. I phoned the number again, with the same result. I used the browser on my phone and got the contact details for my bank (nearly falling for a listing that was an advert for a service provided by a third party to route my call to my bank whilst charging me a hefty fee for the privilege, you have to be so careful these days). I rang my bank using the number given at their website; I got the same automated answering service intro “Thank you for call ‘my bank’….” that I recognised from calling the fraud number given in the bogus text, after being given a number of choices and having to respond with my numeric keypad on my phone, press 1 for, press 2 for, press 3 for, etc, I was informed that it was out of hours but that I still had the option to speak to the 24 hours fraud team. Good, because that’s who I wanted to speak to. After a bit of call rerouting I arrived back at an automated message stating the bank phone line opening hours and being invited to call back during those times and “Goodbye” and the call was discontinued. I immediately called back; with the same result, each call taking a number of minutes of being given choices and responding with my keypad to always get to the same point and the call ending without me speaking personally with a member of staff and being invited to callback during office opening hours. So much for my banks 24 hours security and fraud departments efficiency! Tired at this point, I decided that I would head home go to bed and call later in the morning. I slept very little with the details of the bogus text worrying me, so I got up early, looked at the text agin and phoned the number, and this time it was answered. My suspicions were immediately aroused and the call went no further than me saying “hello” and the person on the other end saying “hello”, I paused, hmmmmm something is not quite right, I thought; I said “hello” once again and the person on the other end said “hello, I can hear you”, at this point I realised that I wasn’t actually speaking to a member of staff from my bank and ended the call. I then searched online using my computer at home and rang my bank. They answered and were able to confirm that my current balance was intact, untouched and that the details of the text were bogus and advised to contact my mobile phone network provider to see if I had incurred some horrendously large call charge by phoning the number given in the bogus text. I rang my mobile phone network provider and luckily my current plan covers the cost of unlimited calls and there would be nothing additional to pay, it wasn’t a premium rate, or worse, number that I had dailed. The most worrying part of all this is that the people behind this attempted fraud by deception have the capability to mimic my bank’s automated answering machine “Thank you for calling ‘my bank’……..”. The part that let this scam down was that when someone came on the line they acted in such a manner as to immediately raise my suspicions enough for me to end the call without compromising any of my personal bank details. Be careful!

If my bank responded as yours did with out of hours fraud support I would move banks.

Diana says:
18 May 2019

Why call it a “Lebanese” scam? What, if anything,has it got to do with Lebanon?

This Wikipedia page explains how the Lebanese loop works and where the name comes from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebanese_loop

Diana says:
18 May 2019

That’s helpful. Thank you.

Derek says:
19 May 2019


My favourite scam was someone claiming to be from Windows wanting to check something on my computer. I am sure I do not need to explain what gave them away.

John says:
19 May 2019

I was parking in a car park in Seven kings Ilford, I have an app for Ring Go which allows me to park with my mobile I had a problem using it .There was a man at the meter with a card in his hand he said the app dose not work in the car park so I was going to pay with cash but he said it was cheaper to pay with a credit card. I said to him to go ahead with his own parking but he said he was in no hurry he was more keen on me putting my card in first. I walk away as I was a bit dubious and I met somebody I know he helped me with the app which worked ok. It was later on before I thought about it I was lucky as I am sure I would have been scammed

Michael Heichelheim says:
20 May 2019

This happened to me in Regents Park it was exactly how it happened .i did not put in the second card in but they still got away with around £2000.00. there was a problem though The police did not want to know and referred me Action fraud.

david says:
27 May 2019

So now you know about the scam you know the dangers. There is no need for anyone to approach you at a parking meter so if someone does you know they are up to no good and lump the b*****d on suspicion of using you for an act of fraud for their own gain.