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November 08, 2018

ATM Fraud Is on the Rise

With the ever increasing reliance on digital transactions, it’s unfortunately only natural that thieves are constantly inventing ways to take advantage. There are plenty of fraud tactics affecting people worldwide, but one of the most common is ATM fraud, also known as ATM “skimming.”

Skimming is a form of cyber attack that affects individual people as well as banks. While banks also have to worry about a technique called “jackpotting” which forces an ATM to dispense all the cash it contains, this technique is difficult to pull off and requires the crook to break into the machine and install malware. Skimming is much more likely to affect the average business or person, so it’s important to understand what it is and how to protect against ATM fraud.

Skimming explained

Put simply, ATM skimming is a form of theft that uses a small device, known as a skimmer, installed on an ATM to steal card information. When you swipe your card at a compromised ATM or gas pump, a malicious device installed in the card reader pulls your information from the magnetic strip. Installing devices like these is much easier for criminals than the invasive methods jackpotting requires.

The US adopted chip cards in an effort to combat this, but not all machines have been updated for this technology, and it doesn’t become required by law until 2020. This means that, depending on your area, you still run a real risk of having to swipe your card through a potential skimmer. Chip readers aren’t foolproof either. If you notice that your card is being more difficult to insert than usual, then your best bet to go elsewhere, because it is possible that the machine has been tampered with.

Protect against fraud

While the prevalence of these crimes is concerning, there are thankfully several ways you can minimize the risk of customers at your business becoming victims, or even becoming a victim yourself. Firstly, avoid public or unsupervised ATMs. Machines in easily accessible places like gas stations, and especially outdoor ATMs, are frequently left unsupervised for long stretches of time which makes them easy to tamper with. ATMs inside a bank or other secure location are constantly monitored by staff and surveillance, and particularly if they’re using a cloud based security camera system, there’s virtually no chance of lost or missing footage.

And be observant of any abnormalities in an ATM, even a machine at your place of business. If you have to swipe your card, thoroughly examine the scanner. If it seems longer or bulkier than normal, then there might be an extra device installed. You also need to examine the keypad. Some crooks create 3D-printed keypads to lay over the original one and steal PIN numbers when the user types in their information. If the keys seem bulky or to protrude, the machine could be compromised. Lastly, you can use your own technology against the crooks. There are now smart phone apps that can scan the machine and help determine if it’s safe. This can be especially helpful at gas pumps, as they show less obvious signs of tampering.

Once you’ve decided a machine is safe to use, remember to cover your hand while you enter your PIN number because some crooks may still exploit flaws in surveillance to obtain this information. While no methods are absolutely foolproof, following these guidelines will dramatically decrease the odds of you becoming a new victim. If you do suspect fraud, report it immediately to your bank, and file a police report if confirmed. Acting immediately will increase the odds that you are refunded.

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