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Protect your Debit Card Number and PIN from ATM Skimming

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San Francisco, Calif | Aug 05, 2013

ATM fraud is one of the fastest-growing electronic crimes committed by identity thieves who place card skimming devices on machines to steal debit card information and PINs. ATMs aren’t the only hot spots card skimmers have also been used at restaurants, gas pumps and retail locations.

By being cautious and aware of your surroundings you can help defend yourself against becoming a victim of ATM skimming. The success of the criminal depends on consumers using a compromised ATM, so inspect the ATMs you use. Watch for signs of tampering:

  • new scratches
  • glue or tape residues
  • sticking out parts
  • discolored or sticky keys
  • flashing lights
  • unusual holes in machine
  • visible wires

Using the same ATMs on a regular basis will help you notice changes more easily. If you must use a different ATM, use extra care when inspecting it for signs of tampering. If you suspect an ATM is compromised, notify the bank immediately

The Better Business Bureau recommends the following ways to fight identity thieves at the ATM:

Protect your PIN – When entering your PIN, cover the keypad with your other hand to prevent any cameras from catching your digits. False keypads placed over the real keypad are also a way scammers get PIN numbers so if the keypad looks different, move on.

Give it a wiggle – Skimming devices are often false panels attached to the ATM—such as where you put your card into the machine. Give the card reader and pin pad a wiggle, these items should NOT move. If there is movement or items come off, do not use the ATM and report the activity to the financial institution. Also look for new or suspiciously placed cameras and unusual signage. Don't hesitate to walk away and use another ATM if it doesn't feel right.

Be picky with your ATMS – Avoid using ATMs in poorly lighted or low trafficked areas. Experts often recommend choosing a bank ATM over standalone ATMs in public places. Not only do identity thieves attach devices to legitimate ATMs to steal numbers. They will also place their own phony ATMS in public places.

Keep an eye on your statements– The most vigilant person can still fall victim to ATM skimmers, and it's important to always keep a close eye on your accounts—particularly the itemized breakdown of charges and debits—so that you can quickly report any suspicious activity on your account.

Report fraud immediately – Report any fraudulent activity to your bank as soon as you discover it. Consumer protections for debit cards vary but depend largely on when you report the fraudulent activity. If you wait too long to report the fraud, your bank account could be cleaned out and your bank might not reimburse you.

To learn more about these and other types of fraud visit Bank of the West Security and Fraud Center:

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