Better Business Bureau warns that ATM skimming is a growing problem. Identity thieves tamper with ATMs to steal debit card numbers and PINs. It only takes a few seconds to install cameras over the keypad and a device over the card reader. ATMs aren’t the only hot spots, credit card readers at gas pumps and retailers can be tampered with as well.
According to Bankrate.com, ATM skimmers are close to reaping $1 billion annually from unsuspecting consumers. Javelin Strategy & Research estimates that one in five people have become victims.
“Skimming devices are becoming increasingly harder to detect and often blend in seamlessly with the ATM,” said Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “If you’re going to use an ATM, it’s important to monitor accounts closely, so you can quickly detect fraudulent activity and minimize your losses.”
BBB recommends the following steps to fight card skimming identity thieves:
Be picky with ATMs – Try to use the same ATM every time. This will make it easier to notice changes and identify attached devices that steal numbers. Experts often recommend choosing bank ATMs over standalone ATMs; thieves sometimes place phony ATMs in public places. Avoid ATMs in poorly lit areas.
Protect PINs – When entering a PIN number, cover the keypad with a hand to prevent any cameras from catching digits. False keypads placed over real keypads are also a way scammers get PIN numbers; if the keypad looks different, move on.
Inspect the scanner – Skimming devices are often false panels
attached to the ATM—usually where the card inserts into the machine. Wiggle parts of the ATM that look damaged or different to check for looseness. Also look for new or suspiciously placed cameras and unusual signage.
Keep an eye on statements – Even the most vigilant person can still fall victim to ATM skimmers, so keep a close eye on accounts and statements. Report suspicious activity immediately. Consumer protections for debit cards vary, but depend largely on when the fraudulent activity is reported. Waiting too long to report fraud can lead to cleaned out bank accounts and difficulty reversing unauthorized charges.