Identity Theft

Banks See Huge Jump in ATM Fraud

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Debit card skimming is on the rise, and much of it originates from a trusted source: bank-owned ATMs.

Data from the FICO Card Alert Service shows a 48% increase in ATM fraud as a result of skimming from 2012 to 2013 (ATM fraud meaning the thief used the stolen PIN and card information to fraudulently withdraw funds from an ATM). The bulk of those fraudulent withdrawals used information skimmed from bank-owned ATMs, according to a post to the FICO Banking Analytics Blog written by John Buzzard, manager of product management and fraud operations at FICO.

ATM fraud is only one of several potential outcomes of skimming — a thief can use your stolen debit card information as many ways as you can use the card — but it’s definitely a troubling one. You could quickly find yourself with an empty bank account if someone uses your info to take money out of an ATM, and while you wait for fraud protection to kick in, you may struggle to meet other financial obligations.

After bank-owned ATMs, point-of-sale (POS) systems were the next most common source of card skimming, followed by non-bank-owned ATMs. While POS skimming has been all over the news with the Target data breach, Buzzard noted that most of the cards stolen in that breach have not led to ATM fraud.

It’s disconcerting to see bank-owned ATMs as the main source of skimming that leads to ATM fraud, considering that those terminals tend to be seen as more secure than independently owned ATMs. Bank customers are also more likely to favor those ATMs because they may be able to avoid fees. Even more disturbing: Less than 20% of ATM fraud originated from cards skimmed at bank-owned ATMs in 2011, but that grew to just more than 50% in 2013. That’s a big jump.

That’s not to say you should avoid bank-owned ATMs. As with all financial security, it’s important to regularly look at your transaction activity.

“There’s so much technology that’s free and available to the consumer today that it’s a shame that so many of them aren’t taking advantage of it,” Buzzard said, noting that many banks and credit unions offer free, secure smartphone apps to their customers. “A quick look every day, it’s really powerful. You don’t have to live and breathe your personal finance, but it’s really important to have something that at a glance you can look at your accounts in detail.”

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