Criminals have made off with as much as 3 billion dollars worldwide using devices that skim important information from credit and debit cards. That’s according to makers of ATMs and other payment equipment. The use of skimmers at ATMs exploded more than fivefold last year than the year before. Consumer Reports has important advice on how to spot compromised ATMs and point-of- sale card readers and how to protect your hard-earned money.
A police detective showed Consumer Reports the hardware thieves install surreptitiously at ATMs. Those skimmers to copy the card information, and there’s a tiny camera to record you typing in your PIN number. The criminals remove the devices and then use the information to create a duplicate debit card that they can then use to drain your account.
Covering the PIN pad as you type is one way to thwart this scheme. But now there’s a new type of skimming device that doesn’t use a camera at all. It’s a fake card reader that fits snugly over the real one you often find in stores.
First it reads your card information and then, when you type in your PIN. The PIN number is extracted and stored in the PIN pad overlay. This type of point-of- sale skimmer is usually attached with double-sided tape. So if you can tug it loose, don’t use it. And be sure to report it to store management. Tangled elastic bands are another type of skimmer but you wouldn’t be able to spot then because they’re placed deep inside a gas pump.
Increasingly, ATMs are also being compromised by devices called deep-insert skimmers which can’t be detected from the outside but steal your information just the same. The bad guys will insert a skimmer way deep into the opening of the ATM, so a customer will never see it.
Chip cards with their improved security features are safer to use but only if just the chip end is inserted into a card reader. One of your best protections is to constantly monitor your bank accounts online for suspicious activity and report any concerns immediately to your financial institution’s fraud department.
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