Thieves are getting creative when it comes to stealing your money. One increasingly popular method is hijacking ATM machines by illegally attaching an electronic device known as a skimmer to the card slots (as shown in the photo below on the left). The skimmers are not obviously noticeable and they still allow the machine to operate regularly. When you insert your card, the skimmer reads your card information. When you enter your PIN, thieves capture your pin with a hidden camera, keyboard overlay that records your strokes, or even by peering over your shoulder. Thieves transfer the information on your card to a blank magnetic card and can use it at ATMs, in stores, or to shop online. Skimmers can also be hand-held (as shown in the photo below on the right) and used by anyone you hand over your card to for payment such as waiter at a restaurant or a gas station attendant.
How to protect yourself
The good news is you can protect yourself from being a victim of ATM skimming. Although it can be challenging to detect a skimmer on an ATM, there are several actions you can take to keep your checking and savings accounts safe:
- Be alert and avoid distractions like talking on your cell phone while using an ATM machine.
- Avoid using ATMs in isolated locations.
- Try using the same ATM for all your transactions. You are more likely to notice if the machine has been tampered with if you are familiar with it.
- Inspect the ATM before using it. Be suspicious if you see anything loose, crooked, or adhesive tape residue.
- Before using the ATM, look around and see if someone is standing too close.
- When entering your PIN, shield the keypad with your other hand to prevent a hidden camera from recording your number.
- Be cautious of a helpful stranger that appears when the machine doesn’t return your card and suggests you enter your PIN even though the machine did not prompt you.
- If your card isn’t returned after the transaction or after hitting “cancel,” immediately contact the financial institution that issued the card.
Actions to take if you are a victim of ATM skimming
- Contact PFCU immediately to file a dispute. We will block your card from use and issue you a new one. If you have reoccurring transactions that post to the card number you will need to notify those merchants of your new card number upon receipt. Also, if you make payments to this card using Electronic Bill Payer, you will need to update it with your new card information.
- Report the incident to the local police department and refer to the use of your card at the ATM.
- Review your account statements closely for the next 12-24 months and promptly report incidents of suspected identity theft to the credit union and to the police.
- You may wish to contact the three credit reporting agencies listed below and request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit report so that your creditors are on notice that you may be a victim of fraud. A fraud alert helps protect your credit information and will notify potential credit grantors to verify your identification before extending credit in your name. We recommend that you periodically obtain credit reports from each credit reporting agency and request that any information relating to fraudulent transactions be deleted. You are entitled to receive a free annual credit report by contacting any of the following credit reporting agencies.