ATM Skimming and How to Protect Yourself
ATM has become an irreplaceable communication and service channel between banks and cardholders due to its fast, convenience and human resource saving advantages. With the prosperity of installed ATM, the reported ATM crime also has been dramatic grown, causing big loss for cardholders and banks.
Card skimming is a type of card theft where crooks use a small device to steal card information in an otherwise legitimate credit or debit card transaction. When a credit or debit card is swiped through a skimmer, the device captures and stores all the details stored in the card's magnetic stripe. The stripe contains the card number and expiration date and the card holder's full name. Thieves use the stolen data to make fraudulent charges either online or with a counterfeit card. Often, the thieves will hide a small pinhole camera in a brochure holder near the ATM, in order to extract the victim’s pin number. This way the thieves get all the information needed to make fake cards and withdraw cash from the cardholder's account.
Many of the large data breaches that have occurred over the past few years may have contributed to ATM fraud. When criminals hack databases full of credit and debit card numbers they then use that information to pull the victim's bank account cash out at an ATM.
Types of ATM Skimming
ATM skimming comes in two flavors. In the first scenario, a device called a “skimmer” is placed on the face of an operational ATM. When a card is swiped, the skimmer records the data on the card, and a camera hidden in a brochure holder or security mirror records the PIN. Usually, money is dispensed and the user is none the wiser.
In the second scenario, a used ATM is rigged to record data, and placed in a public area. These ATMs are only semi-operational and do not dispense cash. These used ATMs can be purchased easily on the second-hand market at bargain prices.
How to Protect Yourself:
- Scrutinize the ATM: If you’re using your debit /credit card. Check the card scanner, if the scanner does not match the color and style of the machine, it might be a skimmer. You should also “shake” the card scanner to see if it feels like there’s something attached to the card reader on the ATM.
- Cover the keypad when entering your PIN: In order to access your bank accounts, thieves need to have your card number and your PIN. By covering the keypad, you prevent cameras and onlookers from seeing your PIN.
- Check your bank and credit card statements often: If someone does get your information, you have 60 days to report any fraudulent charges to your credit card company in order not to be charged. For a debit card, you only have about 2 days to report any suspicious activity.
- Be choosy: Don’t use general ATMs at bars or restaurants. These are not usually monitored and therefore, can be easily tampered with by anyone.
- Occasionally, certain retail and restaurant workers who handle credit /debit cards are recruited to be part of a skimming ring. These workers use a handheld device to skim your credit card during a normal transaction. For example, we routinely hand our cards over to waiters to cover the check for a restaurant. The waiter walks away with our credit cards and, for a dishonest waiter, this is the perfect opportunity to swipe the credit card through a skimmer without being detected.
Once the victim's credit card information is stolen, thieves will either create cloned credit card to make purchases in store, use the account to make online purchases, or sell the information on the internet. Victims of credit card skimming are often unaware of the theft until they notice unauthorized charges on their account, have their card unexpectedly declined, or receive an overdraft notification in the mail.