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ATM CRIME IS on the rise across the nation.
Fraudsters are stealing card data from ATMs
at a reportedly high rate, and debit card users
are encouraged to be on alert.
Criminals with skimming devices that
collect data from a card’s magnetic stripe can
rig ATM machines at banks, credit unions,
shopping centers, stores and restaurants.
These skimmers fit over the ATM’s card reader
and look like a piece of plastic that belongs on
the machine. When a customer uses the ATM,
the devices record the person’s PIN with tiny
overhead cameras, and the criminals can then
manufacture counterfeit cards that can be
used or sold on the black market. These cards
are used to withdraw cash at an ATM, make
purchases at a store or online, or tap into the
card-affiliated bank account.
In October 2015, the nationwide shift to
EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) credit
cards—cards with microprocessor chips—
should provide some help in reducing financial fraud. As more merchants install EMV
payment terminals, customers will be able to
use a new chipped card to make more secure
payments. (For more on EMV, see page 25.)
Here are some tips to avoid being a victim.
Pay attention. Anytime you use an ATM,
observe it closely and look at your surroundings carefully. Do not text or use your phone
at the same time you are using the ATM. If
you see anything suspicious, report it to the
bank and/or police immediately.
Use ATMs in well-lit areas. Do not use
ATMs hidden in a location thieves could
access easily without being detected. Although
it is more difficult for thieves to attach skim-
How safe is your ATM?
mers in more secure areas, it is not impossible, so practice a high level of awareness. Use
ATMs with visible security cameras.
Cover your PIN. Cover the ATM keypad
when entering a PIN. If a hidden camera
has been installed on the machine this will
obscure the PIN number.
Vary your PIN. Avoid PIN combinations
that use sequential numbers like “1-2- 3-4.”
Make sure to change your combinations and
update your PIN regularly. Do not use the
same PIN on all accounts.
Use the ATM during the week. Reports
show that skimming devices are often placed
on ATM machines over the weekend when
banks are closed. If you need to use the ATM,
do it during banking hours.
Monitor bank accounts. Set alerts on
your accounts to notify you of suspicious
activity, and check your accounts online daily.
If you see unauthorized activity on your
account, contact your bank or credit card
Set a withdrawal limit with the bank.
A daily ATM withdrawal limit helps prevent
scammers from making successive withdrawals from your bank account in a short period
Choose the credit option. When using
a debit card with a Visa or MasterCard logo, if
you choose the credit option, you do not have
to enter your PIN. The transaction will be
processed through a credit card network,
which should provide greater protection if
Be wary of ATM tampering if:
• There is unusual equipment around the
ATM keypad. If a skimmer has been added to
a machine it will look like part of the machine,
but it could come right off if you wiggle it.
Immediately notify the bank or police.
• The card slot is a different color than
the rest of the ATM. The slot to read your
card should be the same color as the rest of
• There is an out-of-service sign on the
machine. Sometimes criminals use this to
steer you to a nearby rigged machine or as a
distraction to install skimmers. C
OWEN WILD, director of security marketing at NCR Corporation, one of the
largest ATM manufacturers, shares
more about the end of swipe-and-sign
credit cards and ATM safety. Here are
Your best defense. Consumers
should begin to use the new forms of
card readers that utilize chip-card
transactions. As more and more ATMs
and point-of-sale (POS) devices begin
to utilize the new capability of EMV
cards, the risks of skimming will
decline. However, as long as the magnetic stripe remains on cards, these
cards will be vulnerable. It’s important to note that EMV technology is
not going to completely stop skimming. Even in markets that migrated
to EMV years ago, skimming activities
are still occurring.
Consumers should be observant
when using an ATM to help protect
themselves from skimming attacks.
As one of the world’s leading providers of bank technology and software,
NCR has made anti-fraud measures a
pillar of its research and development.
While criminals are always finding
new ways to attack, NCR has developed ATM technology that can disrupt
a skimmer from being attached to the
card reader and notifies the bank and
the authorities when an attempt is
made. Consumers can ask their financial institution which of their ATMs
feature these tools.
Shifting liability. Under current
guidelines, liability for card fraud is
assumed by the card issuers. As part of
the move to EMV technology, the liability will shift to businesses and/or card
issuers unless they deploy and operate
under the new technologies. EMV compliance includes issuing and accepting
cards with chips and using the chip
readers on ATMs and POS devices.
If you think you’ve been skimmed,
contact your financial institution and
the authorities. Request a new ATM
card and change your PIN. C
Avoiding the skim
David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate. David’s daughter
Amanda Horowitz is the CEO
of Fight Back! and co-founder of
FightBack.com. Email David and
Amanda at email@example.com.
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