How to Protect Yourself from ATM Fraud

Stealing account information using devices attached to ATMs, or ATM skimming, has seen a dramatic increase in recent years. According to Constance Gustke at Bankrate.com, losses from skimming approach $1 billion, with one in five fraud victims reporting having their credit card PIN or debit card ATM PIN stolen in 2009.

So how can you protect yourself from ATM skimming? Here are some tips based on expert recommendations:

Pick your ATMs wisely

According to experts, ATM equipment in dimly lit spots or ones used late at night can be more susceptible to fraud.

Experts also recommend examining an ATM before using it. Make sure the card slot looks legitimately and permanently attached. If something feels off about the ATM or the card slot, use another ATM instead.

When examining an ATM, keep an eye out for these warning signs:

  • An unusually bulky card insert slot, suggesting a skimmer attached to the original card slot
  • Misaligned or misprinted stickers, sometimes used to cover up an area where an ATM has been compromised
  • A loose or blocked card slot, suggesting a “Lebanese Loop,” a device that uses a barb to trap cards inside an ATM machine
  • A PIN pad that feels loose, thick or sponge-like, which may be a pin-pad overlay which captures PIN numbers
  • Distracting individuals near the ATM who may try to “help” you with the machine or transaction

Cover up

Some ATM thieves use hidden cameras to pick up passwords. Covering your PIN number with your hand as you enter it can protect your PIN from being picked up by these hidden cameras.

Be sure to monitor your balance, just in case

Since some banks have a short window for reporting fraud, make sure to keep an eye on your account balance. In the unfortunate event you are the victim of fraud, the sooner you’re aware of the unauthorized charges on your card, the better. According to Gustke’s article, “If you don't report fraud within 60 days, you have unlimited liability.”

Quoting Boston-based security expert Robert Sicilano, Gustke wrote: “It’s all about awareness.”

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