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How We See It

Ken Hartley

Ken Hartley

January 6, 2012

Hi-Tech Card Information Theft
By: Ken Hartley, Security and Loss Prevention Officer

Gone are the days when our major concerns about the safety and protection of our credit and debit cards was the occasional “sneak-thief,” “pick-pocket,” or “purse-snatcher.” 

We now need to be wary when using automated teller machines (ATMs) and other payment processing machines. Thieves may be using hi-tech tools to capture your account information and to steal your money.

These scams are known as “card skimming” and are conducted by attaching devices to money machines that read the information on your debit and credit cards when you swipe them. When combined with a nearby concealed camera to record your personal identification number (PIN), the thieves can get everything they need to drain your account or to make unauthorized purchases. In addition to using the information directly, thieves may sell your information to others.

ATMs and automated payment machines in airports, convenience stores, hotel lobbies, and other well-traveled public places may be most vulnerable to thieves who may think these machines are not regularly inspected by the machine owners. The skimmer, which is placed over the actual spot on an ATM where you insert your card, reads the magnetic strip or computer chip on your card and transmits your account information to the thieves or saves the information until the skimmer is retrieved.

Before using an ATM, it’s always a good idea to examine nearby objects that might conceal a camera.  In addition, check the card slot for signs that it has been tampered with before inserting your card.  

If you notice someone watching you or if you sense something wrong with the machine, simply walk away and immediately report your suspicions to the company operating the machine or a nearby law enforcement officer.

Due to advanced technology, skimming devices are becoming smaller and more powerful, which gives thieves an opportunity to go beyond ATM machines and have them implemented into our favorite restaurants.  These devices are small enough for an employee to conceal in their pockets and use without detection when you provide the card for payment.

You can reduce the risk of fraud or financial crime at ATMs by following these suggestions:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. If the ATM is poorly lit, in a concealed location, or if you just do not feel comfortable using it, use another machine. Avoid counting cash or rummaging through personal items while at the ATM.
  • Guard your PIN. Memorize it and never write it down. Cover the keypad when you enter your PIN, and if you notice suspicious activity, cancel your transaction. You should also take your receipt with you, as it may contain personal information that could be helpful to identity thieves.
  • Secure your vehicle.  When using a drive-through ATM, lock car doors and roll up other windows. If you walk up to the ATM, don’t leave your car running or unlocked. And never leave ATM cards or credit cards in your car’s glove compartment.
  • Guard your space.  When using an indoor ATM that requires your card for access, avoid letting unknown people in your space.
  • Report theft and deter unauthorized use of your cards.  Report lost or stolen cards immediately, and sign the new or replacement card as soon as you receive it.



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