Be sure to use caution when withdrawing money from automated teller machines.
Be sure to use caution when withdrawing from automated teller machines, especially in convenience stores and gas stations. Police departments have reported an uptick in skimming devices on ATMs.
How the Scam Works:
You need cash, so you stop at a gas station with an ATM. You head to the back of the shop and insert your card into the machine. You may not notice anything strange, but scammers have attached a skimmer to the card reader. These devices "skim" your card's information off the magnetic strip.
Many times, scammers also set up a camera nearby. It's pointed at the ATM in order to capture the user typing their PIN into the machine. With these two pieces of information, scammers can access and withdraw money from your account.
Many police departments are reporting higher than normal cases of ATM skimming. The spike may be tied to banks rolling out new chip cards, which have encryption technology to make them much more difficult to hack. Until the new technology is fully implemented, scammers are taking full advantage of the current situation.
Protect Yourself from an ATM Skimmer:
- 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.
For More Information
This article from New Jersey's NJ.com provides a thorough overview of how skimming works and provides more tips for how to protect yourself.
To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).