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March 10, 2019 | fraud--identity-protection

ATM Fraud: Don’t Let the Scammers Skim Your Money


If you use ATMs with any frequency, you need to be aware of the precautions to take to protect yourself and your assets from predators.

ATM fraud continues to be a major problem, both for financial institutions and unsuspecting consumers. For example, in 2017, 54 percent of organizations deploying ATMs saw an increase in ATM-related crime, a 12 percent change over the 42 percent recorded in 2016. The survey looked at trends in ATM card skimming, PIN compromise, deposit and transaction reversal fraud, cash and card trapping schemes, eavesdropping, card data malware and other crimes.

FICO also reported an 8 percent increase in the number of compromised ATMs and point-of-sale devices reported in 2017, in addition to a 10 percent boost in the number of compromised debit cards.

Common techniques by criminals include stealing the information on your card without your knowledge by installing small and unobtrusive card-reading devices in the ATM itself. With “skimming,” the device is inserted or placed over the ATM’s real card slot; when you enter your card, it scans and scores your information on a magnetic slip. Usually, a hidden camera is installed in the card reader, atop the ATM, within a fake keyboard cover or somewhere off to the side to also record your PIN as you enter it; that way the fraudster can relatively easily withdraw your money after you leave.

A technique called “shimming” uses a similar device that’s internal, and not visible, to steal info from chip-read cards; that data can often be used to create a usable new magnetic-stripe card, especially if the bank issuing the original card hasn’t configured it properly.

In either case, the ATM usually continues to function, the thief returns later to retrieve the device and its cache of stolen data and you remain unaware you’ve been robbed until checking your bank statement.

Here are some ways consumers can protect themselves from such fraudsters.

  • Avoid using standalone ATMs located in convenience stores, malls, entertainment venues and other locations, and instead stick to the ones monitored by banks or credit unions. Criminals are aware the freestanding machines often lack security features and regular surveillance, making insertion of skimmers or shimmers much easier.
  • Before using any ATM, check for signs of tampering. Signs include pinholes, new adhesive or new parts near the number pad, such as a metal plate that seems to contain bank information but is actually a mask for a camera or skimmer. No parts on the ATM should be loose, overlapping, incorrectly aligned or different in color or material than the rest. Don’t hesitate to pull or wiggle parts to check for looseness. If there are adjacent ATMs, make sure they look identical.
  • Even if no one is around, use your hand or an object to cover the PIN pad as you enter your PIN number.
  • As you enter your card in the slot, try wiggling it slightly; that shouldn’t interfere with your transaction, but could foil a fraudulent card reader.
  • Be especially vigilant when withdrawing cash on weekends. Thieves often install skimming devices when they know the bank won’t be open again for 24 hours or longer, according to Krebsonsecurity.com.  
  • Consistently monitor your bank transactions for unauthorized charges and dispute unauthorized charges or withdrawals immediately.

Find out how to protect your assets from potential fraudsters.