Society

How To Avoid Getting Scammed By An ATM Skimmer

| by Michael Doherty
ATM machineATM machine

An ATM scam is causing headaches for those trying to withdraw cash, and could leave your information exposed to identity thieves.

A number of recent posts online have warned users to beware credit card or ATM skimmers, devices used to fraudulently obtain credit card information from ATMs and gas stations, reports Esquire.

The small devices are attached to the point of sale device and scan information from the card's magnetic stripe as it passes through, according to PC Magazine. The scammer later returns to the ATM or gas station to pick up the device with victims' information, which can then be used to enter bank accounts or create identical cards to steal money.

The skimmers, which have existed for years, can even obtain information from modern cards with chips, said Kaspersky Lab security researcher Stefan Tanase.

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The thieves will also often place a camera near the ATM's number pad in order to steal victims' PINs. Sometimes, a scammer may even put a fake PIN pad on top of the real one in order to capture the number.

There's a simple way to avoid the scam, according to Cowetta County Lieutenant Jason Fetner from Georgia: Simply pull on the part of the machine where you insert your card to ensure that the device doesn't simply pop off -- since the skimmers are usually not well-attached.

"Don't use a tire iron, but you can go up and just pull on it," Fetner said, according to WTVM. "You're not going to damage or destroy an ATM by pulling on it and checking to make sure there's nothing wrong with it."

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Fetner added that thieves are often in a rush when attaching the skimmer, since they don't want to be seen.

"If he's spending twenty-five minutes at the ATM installing it, the police are going to get called," Fetner pointed out.

Scammers will often install skimmers on weekends, since it's more difficult for customers to inform a bank of tampering on a Saturday or Sunday when it's closed.

Tanase also advised to cover the PIN pad with your hand, in case an unseen camera is trying to capture your PIN. Without your PIN, said Tanase, the scammer won't be able to use information obtained from the skimmer.

NFC transaction services such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay can also protect your information by using a virtual credit card number that isn't tied to your account.

If you're at a bank, you can also check the ATM next to yours to see if there are any obvious signs of tampering. If something looks suspicious, such as misaligned graphics or materials that don't match, the ATM or credit card scanner could have been tampered with.

Sources: Esquire, WTVM, PC Magazine / Photo credit: Pixabay, WTVM, PC Magazine

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