Is Your ATM Safe to Use?

When you need cash, do you use an ATM to withdraw money from your bank account?

If you do, and you don’t pay attention before you insert your card into the slot, you’re at risk for “skimming”, a technique used by thieves to steal account information to create fake debit cards.

A thief typically uses putty to attach a “skimmer” over the ATM’s card reader to scan and store the information from the card’s magnetic strip. The skimmer is typically no bigger than a deck of cards and often blends in with the machine. The photo on the right shows an ATM with a skimmer in place. The photo on the left shows an untampered ATM card reader.

The thief needs the PIN number to access the bank account. To get it, he uses a fake keyboard or hides a tiny camera with a clear view of the keypad to record the user’s keystrokes.

Here are some simple steps you can take before inserting your card that can help protect your bank account from ATM skimming:

  1. Make sure the ATM doesn’t have any nuts or bolts out of place.
  2. Take a moment to scrutinize the card reader. Make sure it’s the same color as the rest of the machine. Make sure it’s not loose.
  3. Look for any wires or off-color pieces of plastic on or near the ATM that could indicate a hidden camera. Cameras have been found hidden in brochure racks.
  4. Scrutinize the keypad before typing in your PIN. If the keypad protrudes from the surface around it, or if it is a different shade or color than the rest of the ATM, it may be fake.
  5. Always cover the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN.

Card skimmers have also been found on self-service pumps at gas stations.  Use similar precautions when using your card at the pump.

To learn more about to spot an ATM skimming device go to  http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/29264764/how-to-spot-atm-skimming-devices