As promised in a previous blog, I am writing a series of articles covering how you can protect yourself from fraud over the holidays. Everyone has heard about cyber-theft, phishing emails, and data breaches, but you may not (yet) have heard about ATM skimmers, which are tiny hardware devices that fraudsters insert into ATM machines to grab your data.
ATM skimmers are hardware devices inserted into an ATM card slot. The fraudsters use glue or double-sided tape to insert the tiny device into the card slot. Some of the devices are becoming more advanced to evade detection and are hidden from view. You cannot easily see it when you examine the machine. The kicker is that the fraudster also places a tiny camera on the machine to record your PIN as you type it on the keypad to access your account.
The ATM skimmer device captures your card data from the magnetic strip on your card as you slide it into the ATM. The camera records a video of your hand as it enters the PIN. The magnetic data from the card coupled with the video of your PIN allows the data thief to fabricate a card and withdraw money directly from your account.
The best practice to protect yourself is to use only ATM machines at (or inside) banks. Most banks use surveillance cameras and smart software that allow the bank to detect when someone is acting suspicious at the machine, and they can remedy any attempts at ATM hijacking rather quickly. But local retail stores do not have these capabilities and cannot immediately detect if someone has altered the machine.
Similarly, stand-alone ATMs are not monitored and are easy targets for thieves to hack.
Even if you are at a bank, I highly recommend that you cover your hand as you enter the PIN so that if there is a camera, your PIN will not be recorded on video.
Finally, keep a close eye on your bank statements and dispute any unauthorized charges immediately.
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