How to Avoid Being a Victim of ATM Skimming

ATM skinningThe next time you're in a rush to grab some cash from an ATM or fill up at the gas pump, take a few extra seconds and check over the machine before swiping your card. Otherwise, you could fall victim to a skimmer, the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned recently.

The FBI's warning came a day after a Bulgarian national was sentenced to 21 months in prison for taking part in a scheme that used ATM skimming devices to steal more than $1.8 million from at least 1,400 bank accounts in the New York City area.

What makes ATM skimming insidious is that thieves attach devices to the ATM that go undetected by the consumers -- they look like just another part of the ATM. Those units then collect information from the card's magnetic strip, storing it or sending it to the criminals, the FBI said. Small cameras can also be used to record the consumer's hand movements to obtain the PIN number for the card.The skimmer scheme costs consumers an estimated one billion dollars annually, John Pearce, a spokesman for security firm ADT Security told The criminals often move from one ATM to another, most often during times when there's likely to be the most transactions, such as during lunch hours or after work.

Pearce, whose company provides financial institutions with anti-skimming services, said the average consumer who is victimized by a skimmer scam loses $1,000.

The FBI suggests the following to avoid being skimmed:

  • Inspect any ATM, gas pump or credit card reader before inserting your card. Look for anything loose or crooked or for tape, glue residue or damage, including scratches. If you're suspicious of the machine, don't use it.
  • Block the keypad with your other hand when entering your PIN to keep hidden cameras from recording your number.
  • Use an ATM that's located inside a building if possible, because there's less chance of someone installed a skimmer on that machine.
  • Be wary of ATMs in tourist locations -- these are popular spots with skimmer criminals.
  • Call your bank immediately if your card isn't returned after your transaction or after you hit "cancel."

For more tips on safeguarding your bank card, visit the Better Business Bureau's web site.
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