This article is not meant to be all inclusive in terms of ATM card skimming or the ways in which a thief can use the information collected from your card, but only to bring an awareness to its existence. Check with the bank issuing your debit card for information regarding the protection of your debit card and the ways it can and cannot be used.
ATM skimming is like identity theft for debit cards and was first seen in 1993. Over a billion dollars are stolen through ATM skimming each year. Thieves use hidden electronics to steal personal information stored on your card and record your pin number. Skimming takes two separate components to work. The skimmer that is placed over the ATM card slot and the camera, hidden on or near the ATMs
in a location where it can clearly see the numbers you're entering on the keypad. Some Skimming operations include a fake keypad in place of the camera to capture your PIN number.
|Skimmer being set in place.|
|Hidden Pin Hole Camera|
Another Skimmer Type, Full size
Not All ATM Skimmers Look Alike
Pin Hole Video Camera on mans finger.(left)
Another Pin Hole Camera Sitting On Top Of A Dime (right)
Follow this link to see the many different types of Skimming devices that are made to mount on an ATM machine.
A Google search will quickly product any number of articles a person would need to get started in ATM card skimming. With a little more effort one could find out where to purchase or build the equipment needed to skim cards. It's kind of scary that this information is so easily obtainable.
How to best protect yourself.
Make sure the machine isn't tampered with before using. Things that suggest something is wrong are loose, crooked, damage or scratched ATM, POS or gas pumps. Look for tape residue on the machine. Compare to other ATM machines to see differences.
Check the machine for skimming devices. Sometimes it's obvious that a machine has a skimmer device attached to it. First look at he card reader to make sure it doesn't look abnormal or sticking out more than usual or discolored, lifting off or loose. Next, look at the keypad. If it looks like it has a an additional sticker on it and if it's discolored when compared to other machines, then it might have a keypad overlay on it. The final thing to check for is a hidden camera, which can be difficult to find. The camera is usually somewhere on top of the machine overlooking the keypad or next to the keypad almost anywhere it has a clear shot at seeing the keypad. Look for small pinholes or something stuck to the machine. If you see any of these signs do not use the machine.
Block the keypad when you enter your PIN number.
This is the
easiest thing you can do in the case of a camera. Make this a habit; cover the keypad with your free hand when entering you PIN number. This simple step will prevent the criminals from getting your PIN number if they are using a hidden camera!
In the absence of a camera and keypad overlay, criminals will be in close proximity to the ATM where they can watch or video tape you entering your numbers. Again, covering the keypad with your free hand will prevent exposing your PIN number to the thieves.
The safer thing to do if you must use a debit card is, never type in your PIN. Instead, select the option on the screen that allows you to have your debit card purchase processed as a credit card transaction. The purchase still is debited from your checking account, but you won't need to enter your PIN, which is what the bad guys need to withdraw cash from your account at an ATM.
Avoid outdoor or tourist ATMs. Popular or high use ATMs are targets for skimmers because the thieves can gather more information in a shorter period of time. Using an inside ATM is safer because those machines usually don't have a skimmer since they are being monitored by or in view of the employees.
Check your bank and credit card statements regularly. Checking your statements regularly can help catch abnormal charges. If you see an unusual charge contact you bank immediately to report the charge.
Monitor your credit report.
Sometimes criminals use the information they collected from your credit
card to gather more information about you in the hopes of stealing your identity. By monitoring your credit report you're more than likely to catch and stop this activity before it gets out of control.
Even though all of these steps are solid precautions to take be aware of where you're using your debit or credit card. Do additional reading on the subject by searching the internet for ATM Skimmers.
Beware: If your debit card has a logo on it like MasterCard, Visa, etc. then it can be used like a credit card and a PIN number is not needed to make a purchase. So thieves can still use the information on your card without the PIN number to make purchases for things like merchandise, dinner or services, but they would need the PIN number to withdraw cash from your account.
For questions regarding your debit card usage and its protection, check with your bank issuing the card.
Portions of this article are written by Julie Myhre at nextAdvisor.com