How to Avoid the Latest ATM Scam

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Here's what you should know to protect yourself against new ATM skimming devices.

Use of devices to fraudulently “skim” data from ATM cards so crooks can drain your bank account is nothing new. But skimmers have evolved, and the new devices are so small and thin, they’re pretty easy to miss.

According to Krebs on Security, the European ATM Security Team – a nonprofit group that collects information on ATM fraud – said the new skimmers sit within the throat of the ATM card reading slot, making them difficult to detect. The skimmers are used in conjunction with hidden cameras, which record consumers’ personal identification numbers as they type them in.

The U.S. is more at risk for subsequent fraud involving skimmed ATM data than most European countries because we haven’t transitioned to more secure chip-and-PIN technology. According to Krebs:

“In countries where the ATM EMV rollout has been completed most losses have migrated away from Europe and are mainly seen in the USA, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America,” the EAST report notes. “From the perspective of European card issuers the Asia-Pacific region seems to be eclipsing Latin America for such losses.”

Fraudsters in Europe collect ATM card data, then send it to the U.S., where the data is encoded onto new (chipless) cards. Then crooks can pull out funds at ATM machines in the U.S. and Latin America, according to American Banker.

Skimmers are getting some help these days from 3-D printers, American Banker said.

“You can bet that if someone is able to make a plastic gun, card skimmers become almost trivial. These can be made without any major fabrication facility,” says Chris Novak, managing principal of the risk team at Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “3-D printers can be purchased legally online or in various electronics stores. Consumers can ‘print’ whatever they want from the comfort of their living room. And if that wasn’t easy enough, the design plans for tons of items are already available online, so the most difficult task may be deciding what colors to use.”

If you want to protect yourself from an ATM skimming scam, follow these tips:

  • Avoid tourist or outdoor ATMs. Indoor bank lobby ATMs are typically safe to use because they’re in view of bank employees and they usually have constant camera surveillance.
  • Red flags. There’s often an indication that the machine has been tampered with. “The usual ‘red flags’ include loose, crooked, damaged or scratched ATM, POS systems or gas pumps and you should also be wary if you notice any tape or adhesive residue on the machine itself because it could mean the machine was incorrectly tampered with or opened by criminals,” American Banker said.
  • Keep it secret. Perhaps the simplest way to protect yourself is to shield the PIN pad with one hand when you enter your PIN.
  • Do your homework. Regularly checking your account balance and bank statements will help you spot any discrepancies. Report any unauthorized charges to your bank.

Have you ever been the victim of fraud? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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