Data Theft at ATMs Is Soaring: What You Need to Know

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Identity Theft: The Latest Ways to Protect Yourself

By Krystal Steinmetz

Criminals want your debit card data, and they'll stop at nothing to get it. Many retailers, including Target, are cracking down on fraud and data breaches at the checkout counter, so thieves are concentrating their efforts elsewhere: U.S. automated teller machines.

According to The Wall Street Journal, ATM debit card theft has skyrocketed to its highest level in 20 years.

"The incidents, in which thieves steal information from debit cards to make counterfeit plastic, are taking place at ATMs that are owned by banks as well as independently owned cash kiosks in shopping centers, convenience stores and restaurants," the WSJ said.

FICO data reveals that debit card theft at ATMs on bank property soared 174 percent from Jan. 1 to April 9, compared with the same time period in 2014. Successful debit card information theft at nonbank ATMs jumped by 317 percent.


"These tremendous spikes in fraud are unprecedented," John Buzzard, manager of FICO's card-alert service, told the WSJ.

If you're a criminal armed with the right tools, it's not overly difficult to steal debit card information and make counterfeit plastic cards, Consumer Affairs reports. It's also much worse for a thief to get your debit card info, compared with your credit card info, because your debit card withdraws your money directly from your checking or savings account versus borrowing money from a credit card company.

"This means that even if your debit card fraudulent-charge complaint is ultimately settled in your favor, with the bank ultimately making full restitution to you -- you still have to go without your money while the matter is being resolved," Consumer Affairs said.

Experts recommend covering the keypad when you enter your PIN and using bank ATMs whenever possible.

Check out "How to Avoid the Latest ATM Scam," for more tips on protecting your card and PIN info at ATMs.

Have you been the victim of debit card fraud at an ATM? Share your comments below.

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