This blog has discussed how to recognize skimming devices attached to ATM machines. According to Wired magazine, law enforcement authorities in Europe seized the video below from an identity thief's actual surveillance camera. The video shows:
- The thief attaching a tiny surveillance camera to the ATM machine
- The thief attaching the skimming device to the card slot
- Bank customers entering their debit cards and PIN numbers
Thieves use the tiny surveillance camera to record bank customers' PIN numbers as they entered them. Thieves use the skimming device on the card slot to copy all of the data stored on the magnetic strip of bank customers' debit cards. Both devices transmit their contents via a wireless connection to the thief's laptop computer somewhere nearby.
With these pieces of bank account information, thieves then create duplicate debit cards and return to one of your bank's ATM machines to drain all of the money from your checking (and savings) account. And, you'll never know it until a check bounces, you try to withdraw cash, or you check your account balance.
The video shows some bank customers safely covering their hands when entering their PIN numbers. To protect your PIN number and bank account, you should cover the hand you use to enter your PIN number. Watch all of this video:
Alert users will notice that this ATM machine is accessible via a public sidewalk. I do not use these ATM machines. I use only the ATM machines behind a locked door at my bank's ATM booths.
Theft by ATM skimming devices is a nationwide problem. Experts say that every year ATM machines dispense about $1 trillion dollars (that is $1,000,000,000,000), and theft by ATM skimming devices is less than one-half of one percent of that total -- still a huge amount of money. So, the problem is not going away anytime soon. Plus, the ATM skimming devices are getting smaller and more sophisticated.
As good as the above video is as a training tool, it won't help you at gas stations because thieves often insert skimming devices inside unattended gas station pumps. To learn about how to protect yourself at gas stations, read this blog post.