There are lots of ways that scammers make use of ATMs to steal from cardholders, but often the most popular is called Skimming. Skimming is the practice of acquiring your card information from an ATM.
Skimming often involves devices that have been (rather easily) installed over the existing ATM hardware. These devices are either collected from the machine at some point or they transmit the data remotely, and fraudsters can then use the numbers they scan and collect to make a duplicate of your card. If you find yourself at a tampered machine, your use of the ATM will proceed as usual; you can get out the money you want, but the scammer is getting access to your card details at the same time.
It’s true, skimmers still need a pin number to do damage to your bank account at the ATM but the use of skimming machines often goes hand in hand with thieves installing a tiny camera above the ATM screen that’s aimed to see your fingers as you type in your pin. If there isn’t a camera there may be a pin pad overlay which logs the buttons you press while, still pressing down the real buttons underneath.
Failing a camera or pin pad overlay, the thief may be nearby or even behind you, trying to catch the pin code you type in, using this with the other information fraudulently acquired to access your account.
Chips to the rescue! Well, not really.
When the world (well most of it) switched over to chip cards it was supposed to help reduce the above type of fraud a lot, but it didn’t really. What these different card features have done is force scammers to come up with new ways to get your bank data. Whereas old school magnetic strip cards used your actual account data in each transaction, cards with an additional chip are supposed to limit fraud by generating one-time use codes. However, many fraudsters simply take the magnetic strip info present on all cards (including chipped ones), and clone it onto a dummy card and then use it as a plain old magnetic strip card – effectively beating the added layer of security.
Ok, I’ll keep my cards in my pocket
The problem with this is that you’ll never be able to use your card (in the traditional way again), and if your wallet is made out of leather or cloth and you have a contactless card inside, you could still be at risk. Someone with a special app on their smartphone or tablet could brush by you on the train, bus or street and swipe your card info just like that. Good news is you can buy card holders that stop this from happening. Just have a search on eBay to find out more.
Will I ever be secure?
Every new method of card security typically begets a new method of fraud. However, there are some simple tips that you should use all the time to help reduce your risk of becoming a victim of theft.
- Always cover your fingers when typing in your pin number.
- Avoid using random-brand, standalone ATMs; stick to ones that are physically attached to a bank. Even if you’re on a trip and want the convenience of fast cash, it’s better to seek out proper ATMs.
- Protect your contactless card with a blocking sleeve in your wallet.
- Pay attention to your credit card statement, if you card has been compromised, the fraudulent activity may not always be in damagingly huge amounts, but could be a sequence of smaller transactions.
And don’t forget…
By following the above simple steps you’ll be able to reduce your risk of falling victim to ATM related fraud.