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Skimmers at ATM: some precautions

December 06, 2012

ACCORDING to a leading bank, ATM skimming is a worldwide phenomenon. It seems that people are generally not aware of the fact that successful skimming requires both a card skimmer (card reader) and a camera (PIN capturing device) to be fitted to the ATM in order to steal the card data.

To gain full access to your bank account on an ATM, the thieves still need your PIN. That is 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.These cameras can be concealed in seemingly inconspicuous places including panels above the cash machine or in fake bank leaflet stands to the side of the machine.

Yet another novel and ingenious method is the ‘card trap’ which works by jamming your debit card in the machine, allowing the fraudsters to retrieve and use them at their leisure. The ‘card traps’ are difficult to spot. However, experts recommend that if your card is retained by the machine, you should call or contact your bank immediately.

Peak times for card trap fraudsters are Friday evenings when lots of people are withdrawing cash and when banks will be closed for a few days. Never assume your trapped card is safe over the weekend and call immediately to cancel the card.

In the end, I would like to quote some very sensible and practical tips by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation on how to avoid being skimmed.

Inspect the ATM, gas pump, or credit card reader before using it…be suspicious if you see anything loose, crooked, or damaged, or if you notice scratches or adhesive/tape residue.

When entering your PIN, block the keypad with your other hand to prevent possible hidden cameras from recording your number. If possible, use an ATM at an inside location (less access for criminals to install skimmers).

Be careful of ATMs in tourist areas. They are a popular target of skimmers.

If your card isn’t returned after the transaction or after hitting ‘cancel’ button, immediately contact the financial institution that issued the card.

HILAL AHMED     Karachi