Due to increased security in credit card and Internet transactions, traditional targets of electronic theft, many thieves are turning to other options to steal money, such as hijacking ATMs. This can be done several ways. One popular method involves skimmers. Skimmers are card-reading devices that are attached to the card slots of legitimate ATMs. (Gas station payment terminals are another frequent target of skimmers.) They are not obviously noticeable, and they still allow the ATM to operate normally. When you insert your ATM or debit card, the skimmer reads your card information. When you enter your pin, the thieves capture it with a hidden camera or keyboard overlay device. Then they can put your information onto a blank magnetic card, and use it at ATMs or in stores, or just use your information to shop online, until your account runs out of money.
Skimmers are one of the most popular methods that thieves use, but they employ others as well. For example, they may tamper with security cameras or simply peer over your shoulder as you are using the ATM. Some thieves even set up their own, fake ATMs in out-of-the-way locations.
With all of the methods that thieves have at their disposal, what can be done to keep your checking and savings account safe? Just not using your ATM or debit card at all is not a very practical option, but there are other steps you can take to keep your accounts safe:
- Before inserting your card, see if the card slot wiggles. If it does, there may be a skimmer on it. Use another terminal, and let the financial institution know.
- Avoid using ATMs in remote or strange locations, like the corner of a parking lot. You are potentially putting yourself at increased risk of being robbed, and the ATM may be fake.
- Try to go to the ATM during the day. If you must use it at night, only use an ATM in a well-lit area.
- Try using the same ATM for all of your transactions. You are more likely to notice if the machine has been tampered with if you are using a familiar one.
- Before typing in your PIN number, look over your shoulder to make sure no one is trying to see what you are doing. If someone is standing uncomfortably close to you, cancel your transaction and go to another ATM.
Thieves are trying to be smart in finding different ways to part you from your money. However, by being aware and cautious when using your ATM or debit card you can foil the thieves and keep your money where it belongs – in your account.
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