ATM skimming is like identity theft for debit cards. It is an illegal activity that involves installing hidden devices that secretly record bank account details when a user inserts an ATM card into the machine. Criminals can then use the stolen data to create a cloned card to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account either locally or overseas.
Skimming typically requires two separate components to work.
- The first part is the skimmer, which is a card reader placed over the ATM’s real card slot. When the user slides an ATM card into the ATM, they’re also sliding it through the card reader, which captures the information on the magnetic strip.
- However, the thieves still need your PIN number to access your bank account. A tiny hidden camera is usually installed on or near the ATM, with a clear view of the keypad, to record customers keying in their PIN numbers. Sometimes instead of a hidden camera, criminals attach a fake keypad on top of the real keypad, which records every keystroke as customers punch in their PINs.
Skimming devices are installed for short periods of time—usually just a few hours—so they’re often attached to an ATM by double-sided tape. They are then removed by the criminals, who download the stolen account information and encode it onto blank cards. The cards are used to make withdrawals from victims’ accounts at other ATMs.
What you should look out for
- Familiarize yourself with the look & feel of the ATM, so you’ll notice any unusual additions, marks or changes.
- Check for any signs of tampering such as glue, double-sided tape or exposed wires.
- Inspect the card slot on the ATM to ensure there is no device attached.
- Look around the ATM for anything that might be a hidden camera. Always use your hand to shield the keypad when entering your PIN.
- Report any unusual appearance immediately to the bank.