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ATM Skimmers and How to Protect Yourself

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An ATM skimmer is a device that a thief attaches to a legitimate ATM machine to get debit and credit card information from anyone who uses that machine in order to clone info onto blank cards and use them. An article on ABC News quoted Tracy Kitten, editor for, “ATM skimming has been and will continue to be the number one type of ATM-related fraud,” and the Secret Service estimates that $350,000 is lost every day using skimmers.

Prior to this, I recall seeing on a 60 Minutes–type show (although I don’t think it was 60 Minutes) where a gas station and a laptop was connected to the swipe device and captured the swipe card and an overhead camera the thief, and employee, installed camera to record the pin number a person would enter then clone the card.

There is a three-part article at Kreb on Security that shows some of the different devices that are being used.

Fun With ATM Skimmers
Would You Have Spotted the Fake?
Pictures of ATM skimmers

How to Prevent Becoming A Victim of An ATM Skimmer:
While the law is on your side should you become the victim of a skimmer, it is still a big hassle to fill out a fraud affidavit and wait for the money to be credited back to your account.

The article at has six ways to protect yourself, but they basically boil down two:

1. Pay Attention and check it out—take a good look at the machine. Don’t just pop your card in and start entering you card number—take a good look at it to see if something appears to be attached that shouldn’t be, if so, yank on it see if it comes off. Touch the keypad and hit a few keys—do you feel resistance? Does it have sticky residue or are there brochures nearby that could be blocking a hidden camera? If so alert the bank and/or law enforcement and don’t use it!

2. Use your hand to cover the pin number you are entering. In doing so it could prevent a hidden camera or even someone in line behind you from seeing.


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