We all enjoy the 24-hour convenience ATM and debit cards provide. Unfortunately, so do criminals. According to industry experts, bank fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country. When you insert your card into an ATM machine, what you may not know is that at the same time, criminals may also be accessing your account.
Electronic devices, known as skimmers, are used in some ATM machines to steal a credit or debit card's details (name, address, telephone number, card number, credit limit and PIN number). The information stored on these skimming devices can be downloaded onto the Internet and used to make counterfeit cards in a matter of hours.
Consumers are warned to be particularly careful using stand-alone or mini-ATMs, like those found in local convenience stores. These ATMs can be purchased by anyone. Criminals usually target these ATMs because there are often no surveillance cameras present.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to help you avoid becoming a victim:
- Keep your PIN in a safe place. Bank and law enforcement officials will never ask you for your PIN, so do not reveal it to anyone.
- Carefully examine an ATM before you use it, especially if it is a stand-alone or mini ATM. If you detect something suspicious - a discolored card reader or an unresponsive keypad - use another ATM. Also, report your suspicions to the bank or owner listed on the ATM.
- Be wary of nearby strangers or "good Samaritans" who offer to "assist" you if you are having difficulties with a particular ATM. The person could be a participant in the crime.
- If an ATM does not return your card, contact your bank immediately and place a stop on the account. If the fault is a legitimate machine error, your bank will work with the ATM's owner to retrieve your card or issue you another card with a new account number.
- Check your bank statement regularly - if possible, even daily. The sooner you spot and report suspicious account activity, the better.
If you suspect someone has illegally used your ATM or debit card, call the card issuer immediately. You also may want to follow up your phone call with a letter.