Beware the Skimmer: Protecting Yourself Against ATM and POS Fraud
As technology advances, so do criminals' methods to exploit it. One particularly concerning trend that has been on the rise is the practice of ATM and POS skimming. Skimming is a type of fraud that targets debit and credit card users, surreptitiously stealing their card details during otherwise routine transactions. Unsuspecting victims go about their daily activities, shopping using a point-of-sale device or stopping by an ATM for cash, never suspecting that fraudsters are collecting personal financial information and gaining access to bank accounts as they process these transactions.
This blog post discusses ATM Skimming and how to protect your personal financial information.
ATM Skimming: High-Tech Heists
ATM skimming is a form of high-tech heist primarily using two discrete devices: a card reader and a hidden camera. Fraudsters place a small, false card reader on the card slot. As a card passes through the reader, it skims all the information from the magnetic strip, transferring it to the fraudster electronically. A small camera often captures PINs associated with the skimmed card numbers. Once the fraudsters have your card information and PIN, they can create a duplicate card and make unauthorized transactions, draining your account without you knowing until it's too late.
POS Skimming: Silent Theft
Point-of-Sale (POS) skimming involves using a credit card skimmer. Credit card skimmers are small devices attached to a legitimate card reader. The skimmer then scans a credit or debit card, capturing the card information as you use it. POS skimming can happen anywhere credit card readers are used, including grocery stores, gas pumps, convenience stores, or any other place where a credit card payment is taken using a point-of-sale device.
Advancements in technology have also seen the rise of malware-based POS skimming. In these instances, malware is installed onto the POS system itself, capturing card data directly at the source of the transaction.
Tips to Protect Yourself
Skimming can be challenging to detect, but there are some things you can do to stay aware and protect yourself from this high-tech financial fraud:
Look for Hidden Cameras
Financial criminals want your PIN and often capture it with hidden cameras. Look for small pinhole cameras near ATMs or POS devices. If something looks stuck onto the ATM, stay away and report the machine to authorities.
Protect Your PIN
Cover your hand when entering your PIN. If there is a camera nearby covering the keypad can help protect your PIN from being stolen.
Inspect the Card Reader
Check to see if the card reader looks intact. Move to another device if you detect loose pieces or something affixed to the machine as a pin shield. Quickly feeling around the card reader will indicate if it is coming apart or is loose. Gas pumps will typically have a security seal attached to the machine. If the seal is broken, that pump is a greater risk.
Monitor Account Statements Regularly
Monitor your bank account statements regularly for signs of unauthorized transactions or, in worst-case scenarios, your account emptied of funds. Signing up for bank notifications and alerts is a fast, simple way to know when your card is being used. Immediately contact your bank if you see any suspicious activity.
Change How You Pay
Quick swipes at self-checkouts aren't the only ways to pay. Using store apps to pay, paying inside at gas stations, or going through a traditional staffed checkout line may offer more protection. Going inside a bank branch may be more secure when using an ATM than using an outside machine or machines around town.
Credit Card vs. Debit Card
Credit cards and debit cards are typically safe options for transactions, but if you are a victim of fraud, credit cards may offer slightly more protection than debit cards. Debit cards will often have a shorter fraud reporting time limit. Also, using a credit card does not require entering a PIN, another step in keeping your PIN from being captured by skimming devices or cameras.
What to Do if You are a Victim of Skimming
After the initial shock of seeing you are a victim of skimming, it is imperative to take fast action.
Here are some things you can do if you are a victim of skimming:
- Contact local law enforcement and file a report.
- Report the incident to your card issuer.
- Set up a credit freeze through the major credit reporting agencies.
- Find a reputable identity theft service for added protection.
Taking these steps helps protect yourself and your hard-earned money from falling into the wrong hands. With us as your financial partner, you can take comfort in knowing your finances are well-secured. We at Consumers National Bank have security in place that actively monitors our ATMs for any type of tampering, including skimming, to ensure the safety of your accounts. It's always important to familiarize yourself with your bank or card issuer's built-in or added protections. At Consumers National Bank, we're always ready to assist you in understanding these protections. So, stay vigilant, and let us work together to keep your financial transactions safe and secure!