Most articles about credit card fraud tend to focus on criminal activity around POS terminals or online identity theft. However, ATM-related fraud is a huge problem in the U.S. By tricking users into swiping their plastic on fake readers, criminals are able to copy card account numbers; and using video surveillance, they can capture personal identification numbers (PINs).
Known as skimming, this type of ATM abuse generates nearly $1 billion in profits for thieves and hackers.
Skimming is particularly dangerous because criminals are very clever about when and how to abuse your financial information. For example, they withdraw the maximum amount they can at 11:59 p.m. — and then follow up with another large withdrawal at 12:01 a.m. With debit cards in particular, you don't enjoy the same liability protection that you do if your credit card becomes compromised.
How can you protect yourself from ATM-related fraudulent activity?
Below are some commonsense guidelines to keep your financial data safe from prying eyes:
1. Cover Your PIN Entries
It goes without saying that you should never share your PIN with anyone. When entering your code, make sure you cover the keypad with your hand. Many criminals use strategically placed cameras to record your activity.
2. Check Your Balance Often
Make a habit of checking your debit and credit card statements on a regular basis. This won't prevent fraud completely, but it can help limit the amount of damage that criminals inflict.
Depending on your bank, you may be able to set up email or SMS alerts for any withdrawals over a certain limit. This allows you to intervene immediately if you’re ever notified of a transaction you didn't authorize.
3. Only Use Familiar ATMs
Ideally, you should only use money machines at branch locations of your bank. If this isn’t possible, stick with ATMs in well-lit and crowded areas.
However, it’s best to avoid machines in airports and train stations, and be wary of "private" ATMs in restaurants and stores.
4. Avoid Damaged or Suspicious ATMs
If you see any scratches, dents or other signs of damage, it's best to use a different machine. Also be wary of any ATMs that require excessive steps — like entering your PIN more than once.
5. Store Your Bank's Contact Information in Your Phone
When it comes to fraud, time is not your friend. The sooner you can shut down your own account, the better. If an ATM ever eats your card, it’s crucial to have your bank's contact information already stored in your phone.
Do not rely on good Samaritans to help you extract your card from the machine. Many criminals rig ATMs to physically capture credit cards; when they come to the rescue, these thieves fool victims into re-typing their PINs.
6. Insist on EMV Credit and Debit Cards
If your bank provides them, you should insist on EMV chip-enabled cards. They are more secure and much harder to skim. As long as you only withdraw money from EMV-ready ATMs, thieves won't have a chance to copy your account number.
Have More Questions about Avoiding ATM Credit Card Fraud?
The above list is by no means exhaustive. With every passing day, thieves develop new tactics for stealing sensitive financial information. For an updated list of best practices, contact our credit card security team today.