via Moak: Crooks target ATMs, clarionledger.com
Recently, media across the nation covered a story that should strike fear into the heart of anybody who uses an ATM card to withdraw cash from automated teller machines. Thieves have learned to use “skimming” technology to great effect, enabling a six-fold increase in the amount of ATM fraud in just one year.
The phenomenon had been reported by FICO Card Alert Service, part of the organization behind those ubiquitous credit scores. According to the organization, the one-year increase was the biggest since it started keeping tabs on ATM fraud. FICO Card Alert Service monitors hundreds of thousands of ATMs across the nation.
“Criminals are taking a quick-hit approach to ATM theft and card fraud,” said T.J. Horan, vice president of fraud solutions at FICO, in a blog post. “They are moving faster to make it harder for banks to react and shut down the compromises. They are targeting non-bank ATMs, which are more vulnerable — in 2015, non-bank ATMs accounted for 60 percent of all compromises, up from 39 percent in 2014.”
ATM skimming isn’t exactly new; it’s been around for at least a couple of decades. The technology has gotten better and harder for most of us to detect, but it usually involves placing an illegal card-reading device on an ATM. Consumers unwittingly swipe their cards through the reader, capturing the card’s electronic information. Then, tiny cameras hidden nearby record consumers’ fingers as they enter their personal identification numbers. Equipped with those two pieces of information, crooks can then create fake cards, which can then be used to drain your bank account.
According to FICO, the most vulnerable ATMs were located in places like bars and convenience stores (these machines saw a 10-fold increase in theft from 2014 to 2015.) Often, consumers don’t pay a lot of attention to the ATM itself, and assume the machine is secure. And if it’s in a loud place with dim lighting — like a casino, bar or busy restaurant — it might be harder to determine the presence of skimming equipment. In some places, the lack of video surveillance may encourage crooks to target that location.
And while many consumers have been — or will soon be getting — new cards with “smart chips” that are usually more secure, most cards still use the old magnetic-strip technology that’s easier to compromise. If you have been a victim, you generally can get your money back, but you need to report it as soon as possible so your funds can be restored quickly.
To avoid being victimized by skimming fraud, FICO Card Alert Services suggests the following:
- If an ATM looks odd, or your card doesn’t enter the machine smoothly, consider going somewhere else for your cash. A location inside a bank branch is less likely to have been compromised, although some have been.
- Contact your card issuer if you have completed a transaction and suspect that your card or PIN may have been compromised.
- Check your card transactions frequently, using online banking and your monthly statement, and quickly challenge anything you didn’t authorize.
- Ask your card provider if it offers account alert technology that will deliver SMS text communications or emails to you in the event fraudulent activity is suspected on your payment card.
- Update your address and cellphone information for every card you have so you can be reached if there is ever a critical situation that requires your immediate attention.