Staying Safe at the ATM: Avoiding Card Skimming

If you are anything like me, you rarely let your credit card out of your sight, so how do bad guys get your credit card information? If you use ATM machines, you’re at risk for card skimming. Card skimming is the practice of thieves stealing personal information from your bank card and it can take place in the form of hidden cameras, altered card readers, or the fraudsters themselves causing a diversion at the ATM.

Here are some tips that can help keep yourself and your identity information safe by avoiding card skimming.

  • Be on the lookout for suspiciously altered ATMs and electronics. If the card reader looks altered or any parts look loose, don’t use the ATM and report it to the police and the financial institution personnel. Report any phones suspiciously laying around the area, you won’t know if a customer left it by accident or if it’s a card skimming effort recording people’s card numbers and PINs.
  • Keep your bank card and PIN keying out of sight. Fraudsters and their accomplices will often try to cause a diversion to steal people’s cash and/or bank card information. If someone says there is a problem with an ATM, don’t go near it or try to assist them as it’s likely a scammer. Keep your bank card hidden. Keep your hand hovered over the card slot and keypad to keep your card number as well as PIN keying concealed and do not give anyone your PIN number. Do not write it down anywhere where people can easily find it in your wallet, purse, or other belongings.
  • Stay alert and do not get distracted while at the ATM. Distracted people frequently get targeted for robbery at ATMs. Avoid wearing headphones, talking on the phone, texting, or other distracting activities that could easily open you up to having your information stolen. Be aware of your surroundings and look for suspicious people as well as machines or devices that seem out of place. All of these tips are helpful in avoiding card skimming.
  • If in doubt, use another ATM. Our brains are excellent at recognizing things that seem out of place. If you get a sense that something looks off about the ATM you are about to use, you might be better off using one that you feel more comfortable with.
  • Keep an eye on all your account balances. Check your account balance daily and see if any unauthorized transactions come up. Non-credit union or non-bank ATMs present the most risk for card skimming, but your hard-earned cash can still be stolen by even the most devious fraudster right on the premises. Immediately report any transactions you did not engage in and if need be, cancel your card and have a new one issued so the scammer can’t keep using the same numbers. Change your PIN as well.

Skimmer technology has become cheaper and more sophisticated over the years. Some skimmers capture the card information using a magnetic reader and use a miniature camera to record you typing in your PIN. Some skimmers will even go so far as to place a secondary keypad over top of the actual keypad. Just remember to take some extra caution when running your card at the ATM and look for suspicious activity.

 Stay Safe,
Chelsea Springli