4 Clever Ways to Prevent ATM Skimmers from Stealing Your Money
Withdrawing money from an ATM and buying things with a bank card have long since become habitual for all of us. Unfortunately, criminals take full advantage of this.
Bright Side reveals the most common ways that ATMs are manipulated to help scammers steal your money — and how you can protect yourself against this.
To steal money from your card, criminals need to copy 2 things: the information contained in the magnetic strip of your card and your PIN number. To steal the data on a bank card (skimming), 3 devices are used.
- Skimmers are devices that read the information contained in the magnetic strip on your card. They're attached above the card slot on an ATM. When someone inserts their card into it, their data is transferred by the skimmer to the criminal's electronic device.
- Hidden cameras are used in conjunction with the skimmer to make a video of your PIN number. The camera may be placed in a number of locations: on the ATM itself (near the keypad, above the screen, etc.) or nearby. Sometimes they're so small they can be hidden in a tiny opening on the ATM.
- A cover plate over the keypad is also used to record your PIN number: the fake keypad "remembers" it once the criminals remove it and decode the information it contains.
Detecting a skimmer is difficult, as they're almost identical to an ordinary ATM in shape, color, and material. But there are some signs you can look out for:
- Slashes, cracks, scratches, and other signs of mechanical damage to the ATM.
- Any extraneous or unexplainable features on the ATM.
- Discrepancies in the shape, material, color, or contours of the ATM.
- Parts sticking out on the card slot or an uneven card slot.
Checking every ATM you use is a time-consuming process. But this doesn't mean that there's no way to protect your card against scammers. To reduce the risk to a minimum, stick to the following simple rules:
- Use a card with a chip. Skimmers copy the information contained in the magnetic strip. Copying the info in a chip is impossible due to its more sophisticated protection.
- Sign up for texts from your bank. This will allow you to work out quickly when the money on your card is being taken. The earlier you inform your bank, the more likely it is that you'll get your money back.
- Cover the keypad with your hand when you type in your PIN number. This can prevent a hidden camera from recording it.
- Use well-known ATMs and those located in well-protected areas, such as within branches of banks themselves, as these are harder for scammers to reach. Avoid ATMs on the street as much as you can, as well as those in poorly lit areas, small shops, and secluded parts of malls.
- Limit the area where you use your card, and use a separate card for when you're abroad. You can also set limits on the amount that can be withdrawn from your card from an ATM, as well as a limit on online transactions.