Despite all the advancements in credit/debit card protections- like the new chip system- scammers are still targeting consumers in one of the most vulnerable transactions- the ATM.
You may have noticed when you got a new credit or debit card or noticed at the store that they have a new machine. It’s all for this chip technology, where you insert your credit card and that machine reads the chip instead of the magnetic strip on the back on the card. This technology is more difficult for thieves to counterfeit, hopefully protecting you from theft or fraud.
However, even with this technology, there is still one area where criminals have success and that is stealing information right from the ATM as you use it. According to the FICO Card Alert Service, the number of ATMs compromised rose more than 500 percent last year over 2014. Just as credit card companies and banks are developing new technology, so are scammers and thieves. There has been an increase in the number of sophisticated (and cheap) devices out there that make it easier for criminals to access your protected information. ATMs are susceptible to these devices known as skimmers. The skimmers are card-reading devices that fit over the existing ATM slot. When you put your card in the skimmer reads the information and copies the magnetic strip. In addition, the thieves usually install a hidden video camera installed the records you entering your pin. There are even devices available that can read the new chip technology, these are known a shimmers and work in a similar way as the skimmers.
The average thief takes $650 from each skimmed account. Getting your money back is possible, however it is important to report the crime quickly.
Here are some ways to protect yourself from skimming or shimming.
Use the ATM at your bank. The ATM at your bank is less likely to have been tampered with. And often have their own 24/7 camera surveillance for your protection.
Be alert. Take a look at any ATM before you use it. Is the card slot a different color than the rest of the machine? Are any parts of the machine off? Is the light obscured? Is something off center or hanging over the keypad? These are all signs the machine could have been tampered with. If the machine doesn’t take your card easily or anything looks off about the ATM, do not use it.
Take extra caution to guard your PIN. Use your hand to cover the keypad, be cautious of anyone standing too close. If something or someone feels suspicious, walk away.
Sign up for alerts and monitor your account. Checking with your bank about programs that provide transaction alerts. And be sure to check your statement on a regular basis to make sure all transactions were authorized by you.
To prevent big losses- you could create another account specifically for ATM withdraws and keep a low balance in that account. This way if your account is compromised the thief won’t walk away with all of your money.
You can also ask the bank to lower your daily limit for ATM withdrawals. A lot of these scams involve multiple withdrawals within minutes, having a low limit, like $100 a day, means the scammers wouldn’t be able to drain your account.
However, if you do fall victim to an ATM scam make sure you report it. It is important to do so immediately. Acting fast limits your liability for charges you didn’t authorize. Report the loss or theft of your card to the card issuer as quickly as possible. Many companies have toll-free numbers and 24-hour service for such emergencies. Once you report the loss of your ATM or debit card, federal law says you cannot be held liable for unauthorized transfers that occur after that time.