Identity Theft

ATM Fraud: How to Avoid ATM Skimmers

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You should always guard your card at the ATM, but with the increase in skimming incidents it’s important to take a few extra precautionary steps.

Skimming Defined: In general skimming occurs when ID thieves secretly install special equipment in credit card readers either at the ATM, gas pump machine or any other card swiping device to capture the personal information on your card each time you swipe.

The reader makes two copies of your credit or debit card information: one to process the transaction and one to later download the information to the ID thieves. There’s sometimes a hidden camera to record your pin, as well. There have been instances, too, where your information gets transmitted wirelessly to thieves. On average ID thieves rake in $30,000 per skimming incident, according to ADT Security Solutions.

Great. Just one more thing to worry about, right? No need to shred all your cards and commit to a cash-only existence. But you do want to follow these steps during your next visit to the ATM or gas pump.

1. Use Trusted ATM locations. Your bank’s indoor ATM is a safe bet, since it’s usually guarded with a security officer or camera. It’s much more difficult for ID thieves to compromise an indoor bank ATM than say, a random ATM on the street corner outside a convenient store.

2. Guard Your Pin. Not just to block off nosey onlookers, but so that ID thieves who may have installed cameras to help with their skimming operation can’t access your debit card’s special numerical code.

3. Check Your Surroundings. Look for suspicious mirrors, loose wires or hidden camera lenses around the ATM. If you doubt your surroundings, head to a different ATM.

4. If Your Card is Denied, Use Another Machine. Skimmers aren’t efficient and may need you to punch in your pin more than once in order to fully record your information. If you get asked more than once to submit your information,
cancel the transaction and move to a different machine. If possible, notify a bank rep of the difficulty with the machine.

5. Check Your Card’s Activity Regularly. While we can’t always prevent ID theft, we can be proactive in limiting the damage (here are more tips from Check your card’s activity online daily to make sure the transactions are, in fact, legitimate. Notify any suspicious activity to your bank as soon as possible.

Photo by Chris Breikss.

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