NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Skimming at the ATM

Skimming at the ATM


            ATM skimming is the process of stealing debit card information – even PIN numbers – via electronic reading devices covertly affixed to ATMs.  ATM skimming is on the rise, jumping 546 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to a recent report from the analytics software company FICO           

            Besides swearing off ATMs forever, what can you do to protect yourself from unscrupulous thieves?

            Where is the ATM located?.  ATMs in convenience stores, gas stations, bars, malls and especially city streets, where often no one is around, are the most frequent target of thieves as they are easier to compromise.  ATM machines that are located inside a bank vestibule, which is well-lit and has video surveillance, increases the risk for the would-be skimmer which in turn increases your safety.  Financial institutions are also early adopters of security initiatives and measures that protect ATMs from fraud so the ATM in their lobby is more likely to have the latest safety features.

            Check whatever ATM you are using.  Examine the machine. Is the card slot slightly askew or not firmly attached? Try giving it a tug, if you can. Do some parts, such as the keypad, look newer than the rest of the machine? Are key parts a different color?  Those can all be clues that a scammer has replaced the original part with his knock-off that is recording your info

            Be proactive.  When using an ATM, cover the PIN pad with your hands while entering the PIN. While this only protects you from skimmers that use a camera or over-your-shoulder-surfing techniques, it is always a good security practice. Even if your magnetic strip data is compromised, the thieves won't have the PIN number required to access your cash.

            If you feel something is off tell your bank. Generally, if you report stolen money from your bank account within two days, you will be reimbursed, except for possibly $50, according to the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. If you wait longer, like up to 60 days, you may be responsible for the first $500. Wait longer than 60 days and the bank will not be held liable for your missing funds.

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