The prevalence of ATM machines and their ease of use has made many people less vigilant about banking security. The U.S. Secret Service estimates that nearly $1 billion is stolen each year, due to ATM skimming. In 2010, thieves in Long Island stole over $200,000 from four Bank of America ATMs. Another skimming attack in 2012 affected hundreds of Detroit-area ATM users, with thieves nabbing over $500,000.
When you slide your card in, the skimmer records your banking information without your knowledge. The thieves also plant a camera on the ATM to capture your PIN information. In another version of the scam, a false keypad is inserted over the regular keypad. When you enter your PIN, the device records your keystrokes. The thieves then remove the device and use the sensitive banking information to steal money from your account.
How can you prevent ATM skimming?
Although there is no foolproof way to prevent yourself from getting scammed, there are several steps you can take to avoid identity theft...
- Invest in identity theft protection. If your identity is stolen, you may not notice for weeks or months. An identity protection service, such as Lifelock on Twitter, monitors your banking activity and sensitive information to keep you safe.
- Stay away from tourist area ATMs. Try to avoid using ATMs outside of banks, if possible. Thieves target tourist areas because of the high volume of ATM users. If you must take out money in a touristy area, try to find an ATM location inside a bank lobby or elsewhere indoors. These areas have better security and more restricted access that may deter would-be ATM skimmers.
- Inspect every ATM thoroughly before using. When you approach an ATM, get in the habit of visually inspecting the machine and surrounding area. Do you see any blinking lights? Bars or boxes that look as though they may be stuck to the machine? When in doubt, report the issue to a bank manager or call the banking institution. Find another ATM just to be safe.
- Block your PIN number from view. When entering your PIN, block your fingers from view with your other hand. This serves as a deterrent against cameras recording your PIN information; however, it will not work against false keypads recording your keystrokes. Carefully monitor your banking activity. Many thieves who use ATM skimming are savvy about how much they steal from each individual. They typically stick to smaller amounts in the $50 to $100 range that are more likely to go undetected. Check your online bank account frequently to monitor your purchases, and immediately report any suspicious transactions.
Protecting your assets
ATMs are not the only places targeted by thieves who skim your bank information. These scams are popping up at gas stations and other locations where you swipe your card and enter a PIN, making identity protection services, such as Lifelock, worth considering. To protect your assets, employ constant vigilance when using an ATM or making a debit card transaction. Awareness is your best defense against an ATM skimming attack.
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This article was submitted by Dexter McKensie. The views contained herein are those of the writer and should not be construed as those of Golden Girl Finance Inc.
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