Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Protecting your identity from ATM skimmers

I'm interrupting my planned blog post today for some special identity and financial security information that I think is valuable to know.

The local St. Louis Fox2 News station recently ran a story about how a Commerce Bank customer found on an ATM machine in St. Louis....a skimming device that an identity thief had attached to the machine.

The gist of what happened is that the customer pulled up to the machine and made a deposit and then decided to withdrawal some cash, but when he went to scan his ATM card, his hand bumped the scanning mechanism and it moved. 

Rightfully thinking it shouldn't move, he reached over and pulled on it and the a skimming device came off.  The customer immediately dialed 911 to report it to the police.  At the same time, an SUV slowly drove around the ATM....making the customer very uncomfortable.  The person in the SUV was eventually arrested and skimming equipment was found inside the SUV.

What I've learned is that thieves are getting smarter.  The device this thief used looked nearly identical to an actual ATM card scanner.  When the reporter showed the skimming device to other customers, everyone agreed that it was "spot on" to the actual ATM card scanner on the machine. 

The other thing I've learned is that apparently it's now common for thieves trying to steal your ATM card number and pin to actually work in pairs.  The first thief approaches the ATM attaching the skimming device while appearing to making an average transaction.  The partner thief sits in a vehicle near the ATM keeping watch over the skimming device and then eventually approaches the ATM, again pretending to make a transaction, while he's actually removing the skimming device.

So, what can you do to protect yourself?  The FBI has a website that offers the following tips:

1) Inspect the ATM or card reader (remember the same goes for any credit card reader such as at gas stations) carefully.  Be suspicious of anything that is loose, looks damaged, has scratches or has any kind of adhesive residue or actual tape on it.

2) When entering your pin number, put your hand over the keypad to conceal your numbers.  It's very common for ATM thieves to use hidden cameras placed above the keypad so be aware.

3) Use an ATM at an "indoor" location.  An ATM located inside provides less access for thieves.

4) Tourist areas are popular targets for skimmers. Consider using ATMs away from these areas.

5) If your card isn't returned after a transaction or after pushing the cancel button, call the financial institution immediately.

Visit the Fox2 News report online if you'd like to see what the skimming device looks like.

Just felt this was important information worth sharing!  Knowledge is power!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, criminals are indeed getting smarter. Yes it's best for an individual to prefer an ATM machine at an indoor location for it is more secure. Unlike ATM found outsider which are exposed and have a lot irregularities that are a little harder to detect.

    Annie Valdez