ATM skimmers are fake card readers and cameras attached to a real ATM. If you insert your card into the fake card reader, it can steal your information. Because skimmers can look so realistic, it may not be immediately obvious that one is there. To protect your card details, start by checking an ATM for counterfeiting before using it. Conduct a visual inspection and physically test the machine for loose or unusual parts. There is no foolproof way to fully discover a skimmer. However, with safe ATM habits, you can reduce your risk.
Card readers should be firmly attached to the machine. Anything unusual or inappropriate could be a sign that it has been adulterated. In particular, be alert if: There are traces of glue around the reader. tape sticking out from under the reader. The reader is crooked or hanging to one side. A loose piece of plastic or a device is sticking out from under the unit.
Small cameras are often placed on ATMs to get your PIN after you enter your card. Cameras may be hidden above the PIN pad, above the screen, or in nearby structures such as a rack or shelf. If you see a small pinhole drilled in the ATM, be careful as it could be a small camera. If you see something like a pack of cigarettes (or a book, deck of cards, or coffee mug) on or near the ATM, move them aside to see if they’re hiding a camera. Legitimate cameras installed by the bank are usually very conspicuous. They may be large and there may be a sign showing where they are. Skimmer cameras are usually very small or hidden.
These are usually shaped like rectangular bars. They are usually attached to the ATMs with glue or tape. This bar may contain a camera and other devices to get your map data. Look for a small pinhole in the bar. If you see one, it likely contains a small camera. If it’s attached to the lighting, be extra vigilant. Normally, nothing should cover the ATM lights. If you’re unsure about an ATM device, try wiggling it with your hand. If it gives or moves, it’s probably a skimmer.
Sometimes thieves put a fake keyboard over the real one to snag your PIN. A fake keyboard may have larger or thicker keys than usual. It may also be detached from the rest of the ATM.
If a graphic is partially obscured or misaligned, it may be because the wrong layer is placed over it. Regular ATMs should not have crooked, obscured, or cut-off graphics and shapes. Look at the space under the card reader. If there are arrows there, make sure they are not partially covered. There should be some space between the arrows and the card reader itself. If the instructions next to the card reader are partially obscured or cut off, there is likely a plastic skimmer over them.
If you use a particular ATM often, stay alert for unusual changes. If you see something out of order – whether it’s a strange piece of plastic or a new plastic shape over the card reader – listen to your gut and head to a new ATM. Look for: Unusual colors on your ATM, particularly the card reader itself. A card reader that sticks out more than usual. Tears around the receipt slot, speakers, audio jack, or cash dispenser. A missing flashing display where there was one before.
If the card reader moves or wobbles in any way, a skimmer is probably attached. ATMs are built very solidly and none of their parts should give way. However, skimmers are often attached with tape, glue, or other unstable methods.
Press a few random keys. If they feel spongy, sticky, or stiff, the wrong keyboard may be attached.
This app uses Bluetooth to see if the ATM is sending information to another phone or computer. You can download the app for Android phones for free from the App Store.
Normal ATMs should accept your card easily and quickly. If the ATM is slow or having trouble getting your card into the reader, stop. Report the bank or company ATM.
Thieves are more likely to install skimmers in isolated areas where they won’t be caught. Although no ATM is risk-free, it is better to use ones inside buildings or in densely populated areas. If you’re using an indoor ATM, check the location. If it’s somewhere an employee can easily see it, it’s safer than one tucked in a back corner (or hidden by furniture). If you’re using an outdoor ATM, make sure it’s near the door of a building or a busy street.
This prevents a camera from picking up your PIN after you’ve entered your card. However, keep in mind that if a fake keyboard is attached, this will not protect your PIN.
Criminals often install skimmers on weekends when the banks are closed. You are less likely to find a skimmer on weekdays.
If you find suspicious activity on your account, your bank may be able to get the money back for you as long as you report it right away. Check your bank account two to four times a week to make sure no one else is accessing your money. For extra peace of mind, sign up for your bank’s fraud alert system. Your bank will usually text you if they see any suspicious activity.
There is no foolproof way to tell if a skimmer is attached to your ATM. If you have even the slightest doubt, use another ATM. Always listen to your gut.