ATM Machine Skimming: Anyone Can Be at Risk

  • Jennifer Stone
  • November 19, 2012
  • 1

There are many ways you can take action to protect yourself and your loved ones from electronic fraud. One way is through the use of an identity theft protection service. For a monthly fee, check out Lifelock on Crunchbase. This company offers round-the-clock protection for your credit and identity. You’ll be notified immediately if there is any suspicious activity connected with your debit cards, credit cards, your identity or your credit report. Another way you can protect yourself better is to understand how the scams work so you can prevent criminals from fooling you. One recent scam that has been quite popular is ATM skimming. Never heard of it? Well, here’s what you need to know to protect yourself from this scam:

How does ATM Skimming Work?

ATM skimming involves a two part process. The first part happens when thieves plant hidden electronics in the card reader at an ATM. The false reader is called a “skimmer.” The skimmer is placed over the normal card reader at the ATM, fitting almost like a glove over the normal slot. Once it’s in place, the ATM user will unwittingly slide their card into the planted reader, which will scan and store all of the information from the magnetic strip of the card.

The second component of ATM skimming involves procuring the PIN number for the card. That’s where a hidden camera comes in, which is hidden near or on the ATM. These tiny spy cameras are angled to get a view of the keypad, and then capture the keys the ATM user taps when they are prompted for their PIN number.

Another method of collecting PIN numbers can involve planting a fake keypad over the real one on the ATM. These false keypads are designed to mimic the real ones as closely as possible, often fitting over the real keypads almost seamlessly.

Who is Being Targeted by ATM Skimming?

A grand jury in Las Vegas, NV has recently indicted 13 California residents for an alleged two-year ATM skimming ring. The scheme targeted numerous Chase Bank branches between November 2009 and November 2011. The crew of 13 allegedly stole data from Chase account holders via the methods described above. They then created counterfeit cards using the stolen information and proceeded to use them at ATMs to withdraw cash.

Another man from Seattle, Beneyam Asrat G’Sellassie, was arrested in June of 2012 for card skimming. He was connected with over 30 ATM skimming incidents in Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada. Working alone, he was allegedly able to steal from 639 victims to the tune of $435,489.

What these cases show is that there is really no rhyme or reason to who ATM skimmers will target. Any ATM is fair game, which means that any ATM user is a potential victim.

How Can I Avoid Falling Victim to ATM Skimming?

Pay attention to the ATM you’re using and take notice if anything seems different or “off.” A small pinhole or a piece of tape could give away a hidden camera. If the card swiper seems unnaturally bulky and your debit card doesn’t slide in the way it normally does, there could be a skimmer planted there. Take note of the keypad as well; if it protrudes, or there is an odd transition between the keypad and the rest of the ATM, it could be a sign of a false keypad.

Being observant, understanding how criminals get their victims and signing up with a reputable company that can secure your finances, prevent identity theft and monitor your bank account for you are just a few ways that you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim of this scam.

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One thought on “ATM Machine Skimming: Anyone Can Be at Risk

  1. Cardless withdrawal using a mobile security app will take away the skimming issue. Several of our banking customer has or are in progress implementing it.

    Use case, connected smart or feature phone
    – Choose cash withdrawal in app
    – Choose mobile in ATM and select amount
    – Withdrawal and place of ATM is shown in mobile app
    – Approve with PIN and take the money

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