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Protect Yourself Against Skimmers At ATMs

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(Credit: KDKA)

(Credit: KDKA)

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – With one trip to the ATM, you could unknowingly give a thief all they need in order to steal your money.

How the crooks steal your information and get to your accounts has become much more sophisticated over the years. So, it’s important to know what to look for.

The number of ATM skimming cases, as they’re called, has risen by 10 percent in each of the last few years, according to the U.S. Secret Service.

Eric Zahren, Special Agent In Charge, showed KDKA’s David Highfield how thieves place skimmers right on the front of ATMs. You can slide your card right through, into the actual ATM, and never realize you also slid it through a skimmer.

“As it receives your card, it is intercepting the tracked data off the back of the card, the magnetic stripe that runs across any credit or debit card,” said Agent Zahren.

Thieves also install hidden cameras to record you entering your pin number.

“This is actually attached to a plate which would be above the keypad where a consumer would enter the PIN number into the machine. It shoots down,” Agent Zahren said.

He said cameras can also be mounted with double-sided tape or glue to brochure holders.

“There’s also false keypads,” Becky Maier from the Better Business Bureau said.

Overlays can be placed over the keypad on the ATM to record your PIN as you punch it in.

“So if the keypad is moving, if there’s a film over it, and you can take it off. That’s also something to look for,” Maier said.

There have been cases of ATM skimming locally in the past year at ATMs in Fox Chapel, Monroeville, Murrysville and Natrona Heights and there were arrests.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

1. The Wiggle Test: “If something looks amiss on the ATM machine, give it a wiggle,” Maier said.

Agent Zahren said, “Make sure that it is a legitimate piece of the actual ATM.”

2. Cover up the Keypad: When you put your PIN number in, cover up the keypad so no one can see it.

3. Check for Glue: “Any glue or glue residue around the corners,” Agent Zahren said.

4. Be Picky which ATM you use: “We’ve found that ATM machines that aren’t necessarily in well-trafficked areas might be a little more prone to this sort of ATM skimming,” Maier said.

5. Check Your Bank Statement: “Check it everyday. I know it seems a lot to check your bank statement everyday, but the quicker you realize there’s something wrong with your bank account, the easier it is to fix it,” Maier said.

Skimmers can also be attached to retail checkouts and gas pumps. Once thieves get your information, they create cards so they can access your accounts.

Europe and Canada are switching to a type of card that has an embedded microchip.

The chip-and-PIN cards, as they’re called, have reduced fraud dramatically in France. But switching over is expensive, and so far, it’s not happening in the United States.

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