Consumer Fraud Alert: ATM Skimming

Consumer Fraud Alert: ATM Skimming


Using an automatic teller machine (ATM) has its risks especially at night, or in poorly lit areas, or wherever traffic is infrequent. A criminal element is often at work, but perhaps in a way you never expected. No, you may not become a victim of a mugging, but you could end up having hundreds of dollars stolen from your account without your knowledge.

Plastic Ring

ATMATM skimming is a rising threat, one where perpetrators place a tiny plastic ring in the slot where your card goes in, recording security details embedded in your card. You probably won’t expect a thing as no one is standing over your shoulder to watch you enter your personal identification number. They don’t have to.

Instead, the tiny ring records your four digit security number and almost instantly that data is duplicated and usable with another card. Within moments your checking account can be depleted, causing untold grief for you.

Clark Howard

In a Feb. 12, 2010 post to CNN’s “Consumer Tips” blog, consumer advocate Clark Howard noted that thieves usually target independent ATMs instead of those at banks. Independent ATMs have sprung up all over the place and can be found at gas stations, shopping malls, stores, and other areas where traffic is steady, but bank involvement is absent.

Howard says that thieves obtain your security code (PIN) by videotaping you as you enter your four digit code. One way to avoid theft is to key in your numbers with one hand, while using your other hand to block out what you are doing. You can also check the slot where your card goes to see if there is a plastic overlay in place. Don’t damage the machine, but if something pops out then that machine may have been compromised.

Bank ATM

But don’t think that your bank ATM can’t be compromised either. In the Jan. 30, 2010 issue of “The Boston Globe,” ATMs at Citizens Bank and Bank of America were compromised by two men, one from Canada the other from Bulgaria. The Secret Service broke the case, finding a pattern of thefts taking place at ATM machines in the Boston area in December and January.

What if you suspect theft from your account? You need to do two things: notify your bank and call the police. Losses may be covered by your bank, but you need to do this at once in order to preserve your rights as well as to thwart additional thefts.

Photo Credit: Yury Khristich


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Categories: Consumer Tips

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".