Technology security expert Brian Krebs asks if you’d have spotted this skimming fraud device when you went to use your ATM? ATM skimmers are card-reading devices that cover the real card slot, and are usually installed in conjunction with a camera to record the PIN number. Skimmers can be affixed at bank ATMs, freestanding ATMs, ATM-enabled gas station pumps, and anyplace else that an ATM might be found.
ATM skimming devices are getting more sophisticated – they’ve even been found in high-traffic bank lobbies. But experts say that by being alert and cautious, you can minimize your risk of being a scam victims. To help raise your awareness of what to look for, we’ve gathered some examples with pictures and visuals:
This 6-minute video from the BBC’s The Real Hustle demonstrates gives a fascinating overview of how ATM skimmers work:
Tips to avoid ATM skimmers
We’ve gleaned these “best practice” tips from some of the articles, linked above:
Use well lit, well-trafficked ATMS with security cameras; go inside banks; be particularly careful at freestanding ATMs
When using an ATM, check for anything unusual and be alert for any devices that may be affixed. Look for anything that protrudes from or seems affixed to the machine, any color differences, any unusual stickers. Look for nearby mirrors, pamphlet holders, speakers, or devices that could house a camera.
Always cover the keypad with your hand to shield from any cameras that may be trying to record your PIN
Don’t let anyone “help you” at an ATM
Check your bank account regularly to ensure funds have not been taken
If you spot anything suspicious at an ATM, alert the bank or the police right away.
Most people know the basic safety precautions to take when using an ATM, such as looking for safe, well lit locations and being careful to cover the keyboard when entering a PIN – but far fewer people are aware of the increasing threat posed by ATM and credit card skimming. With card skimming, thieves attach a camouflaged card reader over a legitimate card reader, such as the one at your ATM, gas pump, or store checkout. One might think it would be easy to recognize a phony card reader – but like thousands of victims worldwide, one might be wrong. The ruses are getting more and more sophisticated and harder to detect. Some devices are placed over a keypad to record your transactions and gather your data for later use. Others are micro-hand held devices that thieves can use to quickly scan a card. NetworkWorld offers an excellent article on ATM and credit card skimming that describes how the con works and offers an illustrated guide with examples of what to look for when using a credit or debit card. This is definitely an article worth reading and passing on.
To protect yourself from being a victim, make sure that you check out credit card readers before using them to look for any unusual signs – if you spot anything strange or get any error messages, report the problem to the bank or the responsible outlet immediately. Don’t let anyone help you at an ATM outlet – this “helpfulness” is a common ploy for skimmers. Also, sign up for the online services associated with your account and check your account activity and statements every few days.
Here’s some good news about a type of insurance that you don’t have to buy: the FDIC has increased its protection for your bank and credit union accounts. The basic insurance limit was raised from $100,000 to $250,000 for a single account; joint accounts may be eligible for up to $500,000 coverage.** The increased coverage is a temporary measure that will extend through the end of 2009.
With news of two banks having failed last week, the first casualties of the new year, many people are understandably concerned about whether money in their bank account would be safe if their bank should fail. If your money is in a bank that is insured by FDIC, it will be insured up to $250,000.
The FDIC – or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – is an independent agency of the federal government that was created in 1933 to protect consumers after thousands of banks failed during the depression. Since the start of FDIC insurance, no depositor has lost insured funds as a result of a bank failure. The key point here is that your bank must be insured by the FDIC.
You can learn more at the FDIC Frequently asked questions page, where there is information on how to find out if your bank is insured by FDIC, what types of accounts are covered, and what the coverage limits are.
**Clarification per FDIC site:
“Joint Accounts (two or more persons): $250,000 per co-owner”