Banking Scams: How To Prevent ATM Skimming During The Holidays

By on June 27, 2013

ATM skimming: It’s the newest thing in the identity-stealing, account-number-hacking, scammer crowd. Criminals attach an often undetectable device onto the machine that records your personal information using a camera or fake keypad. They then – sometimes slowly – drain your account. This is not the kind of thing you want to happen during holiday shopping. Though savvy, the efforts of these skimming experts can be avoided by being aware of the risks and using the following tips.

Use Well-Monitored ATMs

Thieves target ATMs in tourist-laden because of the high volume of traffic. For them, the more people who use the ATM in a short period of time the better. Instead, always try to use ATMs in a public but monitored place such as outside a bank or in a lobby. An indoor ATM often has more security, which may deter would-be ATM skimmers because of the restricted access.

Inspect ATM Before Using

Don’t insert your card into an ATM before thoroughly inspecting the machine. Nothing on the ATM should be lose or removable; if you suspect something is there that shouldn’t be, use a different machine and tell the bank. Skimmers often use a small device that goes over the normal card reading slot and reads your card’s magnetic strip. Other skimmers attach a small camera above the keypad or put a fake keypad over the real one (aka keystroke logging scams) to steal your PIN. Pull on the card slot, feel the top of the lights for small cameras and wiggle the keypad before using an ATM.

Block Your PIN From View

Even after inspection, always use your other hand to block anyone from seeing you type your PIN. This prevents cameras from capturing your information as well as on-lookers who may be peering over your shoulder. Also be aware of people hanging around the ATM. Don’t accept help from someone who says they were also having trouble with the ATM, or that you just need to enter your PIN again. They may have put up the “Swipe Here First” or “Use This Machine Only” signs. If you see these, don’t use the ATM.

Regularly Check Your Banking Activity

Though the FBI reports that experts believe ATM skimming has cost U.S. banks hundreds of millions of dollars annually, these criminals aren’t always stealing those large sums in one sitting. Many times, ATM skimmers will only charge $50 to $100 to your account, a sometimes unnoticeable number you may not realize is being withdrawn regularly. Regularly check your banking activity and monitor your account closely. Don’t let a skimmer go undetected; if you see a suspicious transaction, immediately contact your bank.

Invest in Identity Theft Protection

Skimming isn’t only happening at ATMs. Police have recorded numerous amounts of account swiping at gas pumps and other point-of-sale locations where customers swipe their card and enter their PIN. Always be aware of possibly tampered with equipment and don’t let a merchant walk away with your card. An identity theft protection service can monitor your identity, scan for threats and respond to any thefts to prevent you from becoming a victim of skimming.

About J. Fish

J. Fish is a freelance writer with a strong grasp on many interesting bits of information. Find him writing about anything related to tech, culture, DIY, and more! Follow him on Twitter or Google+.