Card Skimming: How to spot it and protect yourself

While Signal Financial takes fraud seriously and works daily to prevent it, members must also play an active role in preventing fraud. Take steps to guard your accounts from skimming, one of the most common types of fraud. This type of card fraud jumped 546% from 2014 to 2015, according to FICO.


To “skim” credit or debit card information, thieves use hidden electronics at an ATM or point-of-sale (POS) terminal to scan the magnetic stripe on the cards and record the PINs of users, then use the stolen information to make purchases or withdraw money from victims’ accounts.

A skimmer is placed over or into the card slot of the ATM, and a hidden camera or fake keypad records the PIN. The thieves then remove the devices days later and use the stolen information to create a “clone” card and start using it just like a legitimate card. In general thieves need both the stripe data and a PIN, but even without a PIN, thieves can use the card number to make online purchases.

TIP # 1: IF ANYTHING SEEMS ODD, DO NOT USE THE MACHINE

 

Before your transaction, check for signs of tampering or anything strange:

  • Colors or materials that don’t match the rest of the machine
  • Anything that doesn’t fit quite right, looks too big, or feels loose
  • Graphics that aren’t aligned correctly or are cut off
  • A keypad that feels too thick
  • Anything that doesn’t match other ATMs owned by the same company
  • Anything new or missing on an ATM you’ve used before
  • A hidden camera around the machine. It could be hiding in a brochure rack nearby or somewhere on the machine itself.
  • An ATM that doesn’t look like part of a legitimate business. Some thieves have been able to purchase and operate actual ATMs in the past, which record personal information while also performing legitimate transactions for users.

Skimmer before and after

Skimmer camera photos

 Find larger photos and more info at http://www.snopes.com/fraud/atm/atmcamera.asp

TIP #2: WIGGLE YOUR CARD SLIGHTLY

“Skimmers read the magnetic stripe as the card is inserted, so give the card a bit of a wiggle as you put it in, Tanase advised. The reader needs the stripe to go in a single motion, because if it isn’t straight in, it can’t read the data correctly. 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. Wiggling the card as you enter it in the slot won’t interfere with your transaction, but will foil the skimmer.” (from PCMag)

TIP #3: ALWAYS COVER THE KEYPAD

Whether you think the ATM is safe or not, assume someone is looking when you type in your PIN. Even if a thief is able to record your magnetic stripe information, without the PIN, it is much harder to do anything with it.

TIP #4: LIMIT USE OF ATMs AND POINT-OF-SALE TERMINALS

  • Reduce or eliminate your ATM use altogether. The safest way to get cash is from your financial institution directly by visiting a branch.
  • Use only ATMS in well-lit, busy areas where it would be difficult for a thief to install skimming devices unnoticed.
  • Use the same ATM frequently so you are better able to recognize when something about it is different – such as when a skimmer is placed over the card reader slot.
  • Report unauthorized transactions immediately. The more quickly it’s reported the more likely you are to get your money back, or to prevent any further damage.

TIP #5: MONITOR YOUR ACCOUNTS DAILY

  • Use Signal Text Banking to monitor your accounts from your phone. This service allows you to view your current balance and five most recent transactions on your Signal accounts.
  • Set up text alerts for your accounts. This is simple to do in most online banking platforms, including Signal eBanking. Having balance or transaction alerts sent to your phone or email address can help catch fraudulent transactions quickly.

WHAT SIGNAL FINANCIAL IS DOING TO PREVENT CARD SKIMMING:

  • We check our ATMs for skimming devices every day that we have branch hours.
  • Our VISA credit cards now have EMV chips, making it more difficult for skimmers to get personal information with skimming devices, and plan to migrate our debit cards to EMV chips by 2017.
  • We plan to add VISA credit card alerts by 2017, as well as the ability to suspend your card from your smartphone.
  • We monitor unusual activity on member accounts and notify members if any of their transactions look suspicious.
  • We educate our members about trends in card fraud and ways to avoid it.

By Tracy Anadale


Sources and further reading:
http://www.snopes.com/fraud/atm/atmcamera.asp
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2469560,00.asp
http://money.howstuffworks.com/atm-skimming.htm
http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2016-05-03/warning-atm-fraud-is-on-the-rise