March 22 2016

Reported Increase in Credit/Debit Card Skimmers at ATMs as Chip Technology Becomes More Widespread

By: Rich Hosford

The Better Business Bureau is warning that there has been an uptick in ATM and gas station card skimmers reported by police in recent weeks. 

“Be sure to use caution when withdrawing from automated teller machines, especially in convenience stores and gas stations,” a warning from the agency states. “Police departments have reported an uptick in skimming devices on ATMs.”

The way the scam works is that thieves attach skimming devices that can read a credit or debit card’s information to the card slot on the ATM or gas pump. Sometimes there is also a camera set up to catch people punching in their pin codes but they are not always necessary depending on the technology of the skimmer. 

“The spike may be tied to banks rolling out new chip cards, which have encryption technology to make them much more difficult to hack,” the warning says. “Until the new technology is fully implemented, scammers are taking full advantage of the current situation.”

The Better Business Bureau offers tips to protect yourself from these devices:  


- Use ATMs at banks whenever possible. Avoid ATMs in a low traffic or low light areas. It is typically more secure to use ATMs at banks rather than standalone machines.


- Protect your PIN. Place your hand or a piece of paper over the keypad when entering your number.


- Look for signs of skimmers. Tape is often used to attach the skimming devices; if something looks odd, wiggle it to make sure it doesn't come loose.


- Be wary of strange signs. Some con artists attach signs to ATMs providing alternate instructions, such as telling users to swipe their card on a separate reader first. If something looks out of place, find a different ATM and report it to the bank or store manager, or to the police.


- If someone offers to "help" you use the ATM, immediately decline and leave. If you feel uncomfortable with the individual, go somewhere well lit or lock yourself in your car and call the police emergency number.


- Be cautious of ATM failures. If the machine doesn't give you money, or gives you an immediate message that the machine malfunctioned, call the financial institution and let them know.


- Report any problems. Only call a number you know is real, such as the one on the back of your card. Don't call a number posted next to the ATM, as that could be part of the scam. If you aren't sure, call the police non-emergency number.


In February we spoke to the Burlington Police Department about the use of these at gas stations reported in area communities. You can find that story here

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