June 11, 2015

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Are You Leaving Yourself Vulnerable to ATM Fraud?

Withdrawing cash or depositing checks at an ATM should be a simple, familiar task on a typical to-do list. But for thieves, it’s becoming a major way to steal identities and account funds.

According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, criminals are stealing card data from ATMs at the highest rate in two decades. Security compromises of debit card data that are traced to ATM fraud rose 174 percent in just the last year, and many experts believe it will keep soaring upward.

How are criminals cracking ATM security? Many are using devices known as “skimmers,” which are placed over actual ATM components. When a customer inserts an ATM card into the phony reader, a hidden camera or fake keypad records the customer’s personal identification number (PIN).

Top Tips for Preventing ATM Fraud

Protect yourself from ATM fraud by being on the lookout for skimmers and taking other precautions that can keep your debit card information safe. Here are some tips that can help:

  • Look for skimmers: Unfortunately, the reason skimmers work so well is that they are undetectable to many users, according to the FBI’s page on skimming. But there are some telltale signs, including loose, crooked or damaged parts, as well as adhesive tape or glue residue. If something doesn’t look right at an ATM, we recommend using an alternative machine for your banking needs.
  • Cover your PIN: Many skimmers capture PINs through hidden cameras. Covering your hand as you enter your number can be a good precaution.
  • Use an ATM that’s inside a bank or store: The FBI notes that outdoor ATMs are more at risk for skimming, since criminals have better access for installing the devices and can escape detection more easily.
  • Watch out in tourist areas: ATM fraud is more prevalent in locations where people are traveling, especially since they’re less likely to check their daily bank account balances.
  • Reduce frequency of visits: The more you visit ATMs, the more you risk exposure. Try bundling banking tasks together so that you need to use ATMs less often. When you have the opportunity to use a teller instead of an ATM, opt for the in-person transaction.
  • Check your account activity between statements: If you’re not already glancing through your bank account activity on a regular basis, now is the time to start. Access your account online at least once a week to help spot possible skimming or ATM fraud Also, a quick reminder: Never check your online accounts when using public Wi-Fi or other potentially insecure connections.
  • Look for skimmers in other locations: Although ATMs are a major target for criminals, skimmers have also showed up in retail locations and at gas pumps. If a device looks suspicious, use a different payment method, especially if you have enough cash.

There’s no need to avoid ATMs altogether. But be sure to increase your ATM security by staying aware of your surroundings and protecting your information whenever possible.

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