Going shopping can make anyone a prime target for criminals. Typically (and especially around the holidays), shoppers are carrying cash and credit cards for making purchases. Consumers may also be distracted as they search for items and check them off their shopping lists. It’s important for shoppers to plan ahead and be prepared.
Need some cash for to go shopping? ATMs make banking easy, allowing customers access to their finances 24 hours a day, but they are also locations for thieves looking for quick cash. The ACSO has had several cases of skimmers on ATMs each year. Skimmers are essentially card readers that are installed on to ATMs that read and records data off your debit or credit card.
Above, left: An actual ATM with a skimmer device installed. On the right: Circled in red is one way to tell this particular ATM had been tampered with--the key pad cover has been replaced. The new cover is not the same size as the one removed.
In some instances, pin hole cameras were installed in the cover of the key pad, recording each victim's PIN, like in the picture above on the left. Circled in red is the internal memory of a flash drive, which stores information picked up by the skimmer. Although it's hard to tell, the picture on the right shows the metal plate that was installed in the card reader, which gathers and stores the information from the magnetic strip of your card.
When it comes to ATM tampering, here's what to look for, according to PC Mag:
- When you approach an ATM, check for obvious signs of tampering at the top of the ATM, near the speakers, the side of the screen, the card reader itself, and the keyboard. If something looks different, such as a different color or material, graphics that aren't aligned correctly, or anything else that doesn't look right, don't use that ATM.
- If you're at the bank, it's a good idea to quickly take a look at the ATM next to yours and compare them both. If there are any obvious differences, don't use either one, and report the suspicious tampering to your bank.
- If the keyboard doesn't feel right—too thick, perhaps—then there may be a PIN-snatching overlay, so don't use it.
- Even if you can't see any visual differences, push at everything. ATMs are solidly constructed and generally don't have any jiggling or loose parts. Pull at protruding parts like the card reader. See if the keyboard is securely attached and just one piece. Does anything move when you push at it?
Criminals select their victims and targets, focusing on the unaware or unprepared. Criminals are also drawn to environmental conditions that enhance the opportunity to successfully complete their crime. There are a number of things you can do to increase your personal security and reduce your risk of becoming a victim at the ATM.
- Memorize your PIN. Don’t write it down.
- Be ready for your transaction. Have your card ready, and fill out any deposit envelopes before you approach the ATM.
- Select a good location. Identify an ATM with good lighting and visibility from the surrounding area. You may want to use an ATM inside a bank or a business.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Look at the area around the ATM. Is it well-lit? Is it in a remote area? Are there any cars or people in the area? Consider using the ATM during daylight hours or inside a bank or a business.
- Protect your code. When using the ATM, block other peoples’ view.
- If there is a line behind you or someone is too close to you at the ATM, ask them to step back. If they don’t, you may want to cancel your transaction and either wait in your car, or use the ATM another time.
- Quickly put away your money, card, and receipt. Before you leave the ATM, check your surroundings. Count your money when you are safely inside your car or home.