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What is ATM Skimming?

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Have you ever heard of the term ATM skimming? Ever fallen victim? Here is all you need to know about it.

ATM skimming has been one of the most sophisticated techniques, commonly employed by financial criminals. It is basically the theft of debit/credit card details from ATM machines. And due to the relatively low awareness, the practice remains relatively unknown to even the so-called “financial experts”.

However, over the past few years, there has been growing awareness on ATM skimming; and more people are now able to identify what a typical skimming device looks like.

Follow through this article, as we bring you credible insights into what ATM skimming is about; with emphasis on how to apply measures to protect yourself against it. Read on!

What is an ATM: How does it work?

atm card skimmingATM is the convenient term for “Automated Teller Machine”, which is the foremost cash dispensing engine in the world. They are typically installed in banking premises, shopping malls, recreation centers, gas stations and schools among others. In fact, it can be installed anywhere, provided there is stable power source and internet connectivity.

Traditionally, ATMs are designed to facilitate cash withdrawals. However, with the latest development, they now serve as comprehensive financial tools, which can run just about any basic financial transaction.

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Transactions on ATM require the use of designated debit or credit cards, colloquially known as “ATM cards”. These cards contain sensitive information (unique IDs), which, if compromised, could be catastrophic. This is the criminal idea that birth the act of ATM skimming; which is, today, the most significant threat to ATM security across the globe.

What is ATM skimming?

This, as pointed out earlier, is the theft of debit or credit card details from an Automated Teller Machine (ATM).

The procedure involves installation of a “skimming device” on a target ATM. This device is crafity designed; such that it blends in perfectly with other components of the machine. Hence, it often goes unnoticed by everyday ATM users.

Furthermore, there is usually a tiny (pin-hole) camera, which is aptly hidden from view. So, when an unsuspecting ATM user slots in his/her debit card to make a transaction, the card details (including the pin) are captured in full glare.

As gathered, global losses stemming from the activities of ATM skimmers are running into billions of dollars. According to the ATM Industry Association, ATM skimming and associated crimes cost financial institutions an average of $1 billion per year. And despite the increasing awareness, the trend line is still pointing upwards.

What are some ATM Skimming devices?

ATM card skimming is a highly coordinated criminal act, which cannot be perpetrated by just anyone. The procedure is highly technical, involving two basic devices; a skimmer, which swipes and records card details, and a hidden camera, which captures the PINs of slotted cards.

The skimmer is usually placed on the face of an ATM; where it can easily capture the details of any credit/debit card slotted into the machine. On the other hand, the camera is usually placed, strategically, in the security mirror or in the brochure holder.

These skimming devices are usually well hidden; such that the victim would not suspect a thing. However, users who are well-versed in finance infrastructure, or those that have seen a skimmer before, would easily detect it.

How to stop an ATM card skimmer?

protect atm cardATM card skimming is one of the biggest threat to global financial security; and efforts are being made to curb this raging menace.

The practice is more common at ATMs installed in malls, gas stations, and other public hubs; nonetheless, there have been reported cases of ATM skimming in banks. Therefore, it’s safe to say, no ATM is absolutely secure from skimming.

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Summarily, there have been several efforts aimed at reducing the spate of skimming on ATM machines; particularly with the installation of CCTV cameras and other standard security gadgets at ATM locations. However, perpetrators of this act are still having a field day. So, to further protect yourself, you’d have to exercise certain protective/preventive measures.

How to protect yourself against ATM skimming

The tips below are standard measures to take while using an ATM, in order to protect yourself against skimming;

  1. Critically observe an ATM and take note of any anomaly, before slotting in your card. This is particularly essential at ATMs installed in isolated locations, which are generally more vulnerable to skimming.
  2. Cover the machine’s keypad with your hand while typing in your debit/credit card pin; with this, you’re able to block out any spy camera from capturing your pin.
  3. Report any suspicious transaction alert to the appropriate quarters. This way, you can easily block off your card, if it becomes compromised.
  4. Do not reveal details of your ATM card to anyone, except authorized bodies or individuals. At times, a skimmer may only need an information as generic as your card’s expiry date (MM/YY).
  5. Do not use your birth year as your ATM card PIN number.

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