When consumers use an ATM, the most they worry about is forgetting to take back their card or grab the money out of the machine. However, with the increase risk of fraud, you have more to fear as you may not notice ATM skimmers secretly working in the background. ATM skimmers, or devices that read and record credit card information, lead to credit card fraud, which could raise your debt levels and wreak havoc on your credit history.
Recently, a man from Chicago was convicted of helping operate a $5 million ATM skimming crime ring in several states, according to the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's Office. The scam victimized thousands of customers from banks like Citibank and Wells Fargo by installing skimmers in ATMs in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Florida and other states.
With scammers using more sophisticated methods to steal financial information and make fake bank cards, follow these tips to avoid ATM skimming:
1. Cover the PIN Pad
In the multi-state ATM skimming scheme, the scammers used both card readers and pinhole camera panels. As the card readers read the account information, the pinhole cameras recorded the customers' PINs. To prevent the cameras from taking images of your PIN, cover the PIN pad with your hand as you enter your code.
2. Look for Bulky ATM Components
When scammers install ATM skimmers, they usually attach them onto the outside of the actual ATM scanner. Before inserting your card, take a moment to inspect the ATM's components as bulky parts or components that are not fully attached to the machine could be a sign there is an ATM skimmer present, NBC affiliate WRC in Washington, D.C. reported.
3. Use Tellers, Drive-Thru Services
Schemers often determine the right opportunities to modify an ATM to install an ATM card reader when there are not many people around, making it difficult to stop thieves. Even while you may not detect an ATM skimmer, scammers make these card readers thinner and lighter to avoid being caught, Gizmodo reported. An effective way to bypass ATMs altogether is to only use tellers to withdraw money rather than inserting your card into the ATM slot, Gizmodo suggested. You could also use drive-thru teller services, which can also help prevent skimming.
With the high price of ATM skimming, set up text alerts with your bank to monitor your account for unauthorized purchases to stop fraud before it gets out of hand.
Patricia Oliver is a fraud operations team leader at CyberScout.