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Scams » Scam And Its Types » ATM Skimming Scam



A type of fraud which occurs when an ATM is compromised by a skimming device, a card reader which can be unrecognizable to look like a part of the machine. The card reader saves the users' card number and pin code, which is then replicated into a counterfeit copy for theft.

ATM Skimming


ATM skimming is like identity theft for debit cards. Thieves use hidden electronics to steal the personal information stored on our card and record our PIN number to access all that hard-earned cash in our account. That's why skimming takes two separate components to work. The first part is the skimmer itself, a card reader placed over the ATM's real card slot. When you slide your card into the ATM, you're unwittingly sliding it through the counterfeit reader, which scans and stores all the information on the magnetic strip. However, to gain full access to your bank account on an ATM, the thieves still need your PIN number. That's where cameras come in -- hidden on or near the ATMs, tiny spy cameras are positioned to get a clear view of the keypad and record all the ATM's PIN action. Some ATM skimming schemes employ fake keypads in place of cameras to capture PIN numbers. Just like the card skimmers fit over the ATM's true card slot, skimming keypads are designed to mimic the keypad's design and fit over it like a glove. If you notice that the keypad on your ATM seems to protrude oddly from the surface around it, or if you spy an odd color change between the pad and the rest of the ATM, it could be a fake. Unfortunately, there are even more ways for scammers to access your bank account via an ATM -- and some of them don't even require skimming.

ATM Skimming Scammer


ATM attacks and frauds continue to make headlines, despite the fact that the technology running ATM networks is becoming more secure and consumers are perhaps more careful than ever. ATM owners have to be watchful against different types of threats to ensure they are protecting themselves and their customers.

  * Card Skimming : It remains as the number one threat globally. Essentially, skimming refers to the stealing of the electronic card data, enabling the criminal to counterfeit the card. Consumers experience a normal ATM transaction and are usually unable to notice a problem until their account is defrauded.

  * Card Trapping : Trapping is the stealing of the physical card itself through a device fixed to the ATM. In a pre-EMV or chip-and-signature environment, the PIN does not need to be compromised.
ATM Card Trapping

  * Transaction Reversal Fraud (TRF) : TRF involves the creation of an error that makes it appear as though the cash had not been dispensed. The account is re-credited the amount 'withdrawn' but the criminal pockets the money. It could be a physical grab (similar to cash trapping) or a corruption of the transaction message.

  * Cash Trapping : While you insert your card, your cash will be trapped by a sleeve device. This way your transaction will be operated in an ordinary way but you will not get the cash from the machine. You will surely think that the ATM machine is not working and you might report this event to the bank. After you leave, the thieves will surely walk in and withdraw your cash. Normally relatively low value, the fraudster will use a device to physically trap the cash that is dispensed and come to collect once the customer has left the ATM location.

  * Vandalism : This category is related to any attempt to rob the ATM of the cash in the safe. Methods of physical attacks include solid and gas explosives, as well as removing the ATM from the site and then using other methods to gain access to the safe.

  * Logical Attacks : Logical attacks are becoming a major and growing attack vector, and one that has the potential to cause large amounts of losses. In this type of attack, external electronic devices, or malicious software in used in the crime. The tools are used to allow the criminal to take physical control of the ATM dispenser to withdraw money, which is often called "cash-out" or "jackpotting," as the machine starts spitting out bills like a casino gaming machine.

ATM Skimming Statistics


  • When you approach an ATM, check for some obvious signs of tampering at the top of the ATM, near the speakers, the side of the screen, the card reader itself, and the keyboard. If something looks different, such as a different color or material, or anything else that doesn't look right, don't use that ATM.
  • If you're at the bank, it's a good idea to quickly take a look at the ATM next to yours and compare them both. If there are any obvious differences, don't use either one, and report the suspicious tampering to your bank. For example, if one ATM has a flashing card entry to show where you should insert the ATM card and the other ATM has a plain reader slot, you know something is wrong. Since most skimmers are glued on top of the existing reader, they will obscure the flashing indicator.
  • If the keyboard doesn't feel right — too thick, perhaps then there may be a PIN-snatching overlay, so don't use it.
  • Even if you can't see any visual differences, push at everything. ATMs are solidly constructed and generally don't have any jiggling or loose parts.
  • If the ATM is the kind where it takes the card and returns it at the end of the transaction, then the reader is on the inside. Shacking back and forth the card as you enter it in the slot won't interfere with your transaction, but will foil the skimmer.

This tactic won't work on shimmers, and won't work with any ATM that captures and holds your card while your transaction is in process. However, there are still ways to protect yourself when using these machines.
Beware of ATM Scammers


  • Always pay attention to objects mounted on the ATM or located close by. A pinhole or off-color piece of plastic could give away the camera's hiding place. Cameras could even be hidden in brochure racks.
  • Whenever you enter your debit card's PIN, assume there is someone looking. Cover the keypad with your hand when you enter your PIN. Criminals frequently install skimmers on ATMs that aren't located in overly busy locations since they don't want to be observed installing malicious hardware or collecting the harvested data. The ATMs inside banks are generally safer because of all the cameras, although some daring criminals do still succeed at installing them there.
  • The ATM inside a grocery store or restaurant is generally safer than the one that is outside on the sidewalk. Stop and consider the safety of the ATM before you use it.

That said, no place is safe from an energetic criminal. Take this video, for example. The thief installs a skimmer on the point of sale unit inside a grocery store in seconds :
Scammer Installing Tiny Camera

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