ATM Skimming – What You Should Know

by Krantcents · 29 comments

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A Florida man was sentenced to federal prison following his role in an ATM-skimming case. He was found guilty of aggravated identity theft and possession of ATM-skimming paraphernalia. In another case, an Atlanta man was sentenced to 38 months in prison on ATM skimming charges along with restitution of more than $70,000 upon his release.

In an even weirder case reported by Techworld, closed-circuit cameras caught a Romanian man fitting a skimming device into an ATM in the U.K. He was arrested when he returned to move the device. The man is accused of skimming 9,000 ATM PINs that would have allowed him to steal nearly £5 million from British victims. The ATM device recorded account numbers while a small camera captured PINs entered by unwitting victims.

The Art of Skimming

The skimmer, which looks nearly identical to the original card reader, is placed on top of the original card reader. As customers insert their ATM cards, their bank account information is skimmed by the card reader and stored on an electronic device. Identity theft protection company LifeLock reports that skimmers cost banks as much as $1 billion every year and the number of cases increased 10 percent per year from 2008 to 2010. Skimming is not unique to ATMs. Credit card readers are also susceptible to skimming, which means when you hand your card over to a cashier, you risk becoming a victim of identity theft. LifeLock reports that ATM and credit card skimmers combined cost U.S. banks $8 billion in a year.

Avoid Being Skimmed

Luckily there are ways customers can avoid being skimmed. ATM users can start by inspecting the specific ATM, gas pump, or credit card reader before using it, and looking out for anything loose, crooked, scratched, damaged, taped, or device that might be installed over the original card reader. An ATM user can block the keypad with her other hand while entering her PIN number in order to prevent possible “pinhole” hidden cameras from recording their numbers. It is also recommended that if possible, bank customers use inside ATMs, which are more difficult to install ATM skimmers.

Some banks offer prepaid Visa and Mastercard cards, which are not tied directly to bank accounts and function just like debit and credit cards. Users transfer money to the cards and use them to buy goods and services. Potential thieves would have access only to the amount on the card, rather than the victim’s entire financial information. If you go the pre-paid route, look for a vendor who offers low fees.

The Future of ATM Banking

The ATM Industry Association reported in 2012 that skimming is the biggest threat to ATM security. It surveyed 225 ATM vendors, and 53 percent of them reported an increase in skimming and other attacks, such as cash trapping (which does just that—uses adhesive to trap cash rather than dispense it) and using explosives to open machines.


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Holly@ClubThrifty June 27, 2013 at 10:13 am

That is seriously crazy! If only people would put that much effort into getting a real job!

Krantcents June 27, 2013 at 11:17 am

Thieves and scammers do ot think that way! They don’t think they will get caught.

Andy Hough June 27, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Skimming is one of the reasons I try to use my credit card rather than my debit card when I can. I do keep a lookout for skimming devices as well but some of them are really hard to detect so you can’t be sure that you will notice one.

Krantcents June 27, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I have heard of them on ATM machines and gas pumps. Although I rarely use cash, I do go to the ATM every week. It is hard to avoid it.

Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide July 5, 2013 at 12:49 am

I get cash advances at the grocery store when I need them. (No worries–I pay it off every month, and there are no fees.) This is just to save me the trip!

Krantcents July 5, 2013 at 7:49 am

In Los Angeles, there are ATMs everywhere. More opportunity for skimming.

Pauline June 27, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Scary! We have an ATM that duplicates transactions in town. Every local knows it, we have complained, they don’t change it and don’t refund you. I guess they still wait for the occasional tourist to use it.

Krantcents June 27, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Isn’t it against the law? I would think they would want to protect the tourists because isn’t that a big industry in Guatemala?

Buck Inspire June 28, 2013 at 5:01 am

Unbelievable. There will always be people taking advantage of the system and of honest hard working folks. Thanks for making me more aware and will be more careful when using my ATM and credit cards.

Krantcents June 28, 2013 at 7:48 am

There are always people who want to take advantage of people. Technology has help to change the definition of stealing.

Andrew @ She Thinks I'm Cheap June 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Using ATMs that are in isolated areas is always a bit of a roll of the dice. It’s always best to use ATMs that are in high traffic areas or inside buildings so the chance of thieves tampering with them is low. I can’t believe that a known bad ATM is being left operational! You should complain to the police to get it taken away.

Krantcents June 30, 2013 at 8:55 am

I only use the ATM at a bank, but I have heard of tampering with gas stations. It seems the thieves at one step ahead of the rest of us when it comes to scams.

Greg @ June 29, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I rarely use the ATM as it is and this gives me one more reason not to. It really is scary to think of all the ways you can get scammed these days.

Krantcents June 30, 2013 at 8:56 am

There will probably be a day in the near future when ATMs will be obsolete. In fact, there is a Chase commercial when a parent pays a babysitter by a cash transfer,

Lindsey @ Cents & Sensibility June 30, 2013 at 10:07 am

My bank information was skimmed and they withdrew $1000 from my account about five years ago. The bank covered me after they investigated and I signed an affidavit stating that it wasn’t me. I change my pin code every other month and periodically get a new bank card just to change up the numbers.

Krantcents June 30, 2013 at 10:31 am

It is unfortunate that you have to do that! I have tightened up m own security on my accounts too. This is the bad side of technology and we just have to protect ourselves.

Buy Best ATM machine July 1, 2013 at 3:26 am

There are many ATM Skimming devices like fake card slot, hidden cameras, fake number-pads etc. Customers should develop the habit of making sure that the ATM is right and there are no such threats involved in it.

Krantcents July 1, 2013 at 7:47 am

I try to use ATM machines at secure locations such as my bank.

The Phroogal Jason July 2, 2013 at 10:03 pm

My friend and I were out to dinner and she was about to pay for the bill. She was told it was declined. She called her bank and there was indeed a block on the card. It seemed that her card was being used buying large amounts of food in McDonalds and Walmart.

Banks know if the card is present during the transaction. They asked her if she had her card in her possession.

These crooks skim your card number and actually make duplicate cards.

Be weary of whom you had your card too and always check to see of potential devices you noted on this post.

Krantcents July 3, 2013 at 8:15 am

Very true! We should treat our cards as though it is cash and much more. It is one of the reasons, I check my statements and/or charges a couple times a month.

ATM Machine Placement Services July 4, 2013 at 6:37 am

ATM skimming and various other kind of ATM frauds are on rise. Steps are required to be taken to curb such situations. Thanks for sharing this post. This post gives a good insight into ATM skimming and what one should know about it.

Krantcents July 4, 2013 at 8:01 am

You’re welcome. Crime seems to rise during bad times and technology has made it easier too.

Wilfredo Miles July 7, 2013 at 10:00 am

What these two did is called “ATM skimming”—basically placing an electronic device on an ATM that scoops information from a bank card’s magnetic strip whenever a customer uses the machine. ATM skimming is a growing criminal activity that some experts believe costs U.S. banks hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Krantcents July 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm

You always have to be aware of these new scams using technology or you will become a victim.

Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter July 12, 2013 at 5:50 am

My card was compromised because I guess somebody put a skimming device on the machine. I just can’t imagine, in public places like restaurants, how they get away with it with nobody watching or checking up. It’s insane! They must be really sneaky and good at their criminal craft..

Krantcents July 12, 2013 at 7:57 am

Yes, they are outsmarting many of us because they are thinking 24/7 how to cheat us.

EZATMS July 24, 2013 at 12:16 am

Hi Krantcents… I am agree with you that we should have to aware of such new scams using latest technology. Hackers are very smart and think latest techniques to break the security and misuse it. They take it as a challenge.

Krantcents July 24, 2013 at 8:35 am

I wouldn’t give con and scam artists that much credit! They just found a new way to steal from people.

Krantcents July 24, 2013 at 8:46 am

I wouldn’t give them that much credit! They just found new ways to steal money from people.

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