Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Never Hurts to Be Aware

While we haven't had heard of any recent reports regarding ATM skimming in the area for a while now, the busy holiday shopping season always bring out clever criminals who are willing to go beyond the norm in order to steal your money. The information below is just another way in which we hope to educate everyone on the many ways to NOT be a victim this season.

Have you been watching your ATM records lately?  If you haven’t been, you should get into the practice of doing so.  It would be no fun to find out someone has drained your bank account.  And it would probably surprise you to learn they could do so without your ATM card ever leaving your possession.  How?  ATM skimming.

Criminals have used several different methods to get your credit card and debit card numbers.  They can obtain the information on line, over the phone through telephone scams and even read the magnetic strip at any place where they may have access to your physical card when you make a purchase.  (Think about a waiter or waitress at a restaurant who isn’t really as nice as they seem.  When they leave to run your card, they can run it through a skimming device at the same time).  A less known tactic that is starting to show up around the area is ATM skimming.

ATM skimming occurs when someone attaches a card reading device to an ATM.  This happens around the actual card reader.  You insert your card and it passes first through the skimming device, then through the ATM card reader.  Presto!  You still get to make your withdrawal, but now the bad guy has the information from your debit card to be used later.  Tiny cameras can be inconspicuously mounted near the keypad to capture your pin number.  Isn’t technology grand?

Are you thinking you would know the difference between a legitimate card reader and one with a skimming device attached?  Take a look at some of these pictures (courtesy of Commonwealth Bank) and see if you can tell the difference.

So how can you avoid being a victim?  Here are a couple of common suggestions we’ve been able to find:

Watch for odd or unusual activity around the ATM - Criminals need an opportunity to attach skimming devices and PIN reading cameras so ATMs that are not closely monitored have an increased risk of being a target.  Information is often transmitted by way of Bluetooth type device.  This means criminals are usually close by receiving the information being transmitted.

Be familiar with the appearance of you ATM – By using the same ATM or a select few ATMs you will have a better chance of spotting something out of the ordinary.  Look for scratches, marks, tape or glue residue.  

Shield the keypad when entering your PIN – Remember criminals are usually trying to get the PIN number and the magnetic strip information.  If you miss the skimming device, you will want to try to at least protect your PIN

Pay attention to activity on your account – Look for any transactions that are not yours or unauthorized.  You should be doing this regularly anyway.

If you think something is not right with an ATM, don’t use it.  Report suspicious findings to the bank or authorities.  Skimming devices are becoming more common.  They have been reported on locations besides ATMs as well, such as pay at the pump gas stations.  ATM / debit cards are convenient, but with anything that is convenient there is a risk that someone out there is looking for an easy payday.  Do your part to keep from being another victim.

For more information regarding spotting skimming devices visit: