ATM Scams

Category: Security

Automated teller machines (ATMs) have been around for a few decades, and ATM scammers have been on the prowl for almost as long. Today most people use ATMs to do at least some of their banking, leaving millions of people and millions of dollars at risk. Learn more about ATM scams and how to protect yourself...

Fake ATM scams

Don't Fall Victim to ATM Scams

One of the most common forms of ATM scams is skimming. Here's one way the scam can work: A rogue device called a skimmer is placed inside or over top of the card slot on a legitimate ATM, to capture data from the magnetic strip. When you swipe your card your card, the information is sent not only to your bank, but also to the crooks who installed the skimmer.

In some cases there's also a transparent plastic overlay on the keypad, to record the victim's pin code as it is entered. A low-tech version might involve a person strategically positioned nearby, with binoculars or a camera to capture the pin number. Everything appears to work as usual. You swipe, the cash is dispensed, and you walk away thinking all is well.

And then there's the Bogus ATM scam, which involves an ATM that looks real, but it's designed to capture your card information without dispensing any cash. In an ironic twist, this ploy was used at the DEFCON hacker conference which took place at the Riviera Hotel Casino in Las Vegas a few days ago. In this case the ATM machine was hacked by installing a laptop inside the port where the security camera was supposed to be. This laptop skimmed data as it was being processed by the ATM machine. This allowed the crooks access to the information that was being transmitted both by the ATM user and by the bank.

This scam was unique in that the bogus ATM was positioned right outside the security office of the hotel, where no security camera would record the activity. There were two tip offs for this scam. The first was that the accounts were debited but no cash was dispensed, and secondly the place where the security camera should have been looked "odd" compared to a legitimate ATM machine.

Cash card cloning is a related scam that is being perpetrated around the globe. In this scam the skimmed information, which includes the card number, expiration data and pin number, is used by the crook to clone credit and debit cards. These cards are then used to steal money from the cardholder’s accounts. This information can also be used to gain access to other pieces of financial information like bank accounts, home addresses and other credit card accounts.

Protecting Yourself from ATM Scams

It can be very difficult to protect yourself from ATM scams, mainly because the technology used by skimmers and scammers is becoming more advanced and harder to detect. However, there are a few tell-tale signs to look for that indicate that an ATM has been tampered with. If the machine has an unusual looking card reader, for example, if it has an extension added to it or a small camera attached to it, then don’t use the ATM machine.

Also, if you use the ATM and your card is rejected but you are offered no explanation of why your card was rejected then the machine may have been tampered with and you will need to contact your bank. Also if you notice that the keypad has a plastic overlay on it you don’t want to use the ATM as this overlay could be a skimming device used to capture your PIN. Finally, if your account is debited for the cash withdrawal but you didn’t get any cash from the ATM machine then you need to contact your bank immediately. It might also be a good idea to alert the management or security department where the machine is located, so they can prevent others from using it.

The process of skimming credit card and debit card information is not exclusive to ATMs. Credit card readers for kiosk services and gas pumps can also be targeted for this type of scam. So be wary of where you swipe your credit or debit cards, and check your statement for fraud after every transaction.

Have you been victimized by an ATM scam? Post your comments and questions below...

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Most recent comments on "ATM Scams"

Posted by:

The Barking Unicorn
11 Aug 2009

Bob, how could you omit the biggest, most expensive ATM scam of all - the legal one? I'm talking about ATM bank fees, of course!

$2.50 to $3.50 by the ATM owner is not unusual. Then one's own bank adds a $1.50 or so "interchange fee" or "foreign ATM fee".

"To stop suffering, stop greediness. Greediness is a source of suffering." ~ The Buddha.

There's a Whole Foods a half-block from my Home, another source of greediness and suffering. Distilled water costs more than gasoline there. I buy at "Whole Wallet" only when I need cash back, and then nothing over 79 cents.

Posted by:

12 Aug 2009

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important!

"So be weary of where you swipe your credit or debit cards...."


Posted by:

Account Manager
12 Aug 2009

Hi, Bob! Your articles are always excellent and well written. As a former English major, I always smile when I read your caption to the comment box where I am entering my comments:" Yes... spelling, punctuation, grammer and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important."

I think you and I are the only two remaining people who care. So it was with glee that I read, "So be weary of where you swipe your credit or debit cards." "be weary" means "be tired." I think you meant "be wary," which means "be careful."

Also, while I'm writing this tongue-in-cheek scolding, when you say, "Yes... spelling, punctuation ... are important," you are misusing an ellipsis -- the three periods that indicate the ommission of words from a sentence. Modern users often use an ellipsis to indicate a pause, but that is considered substandard. You probably want to say "Yes! Spelling ..." etc. or "Yes -- spelling ..."

But don't spend so much time proofreading that you cut back on your excellently-researched and presented articles!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Okay, the "weary/wary" thing is fixed. It was an honest typo, and I appreciate you and others calling me on it. But... I'm clinging to my ellipses, substandard or not! :-)

Posted by:

14 Aug 2009

I find it interesting that "account Manager" was so critical of your spelling and grammar. Maybe he/she should have used spellcheck on his/her comment. "indicate the ommission of words"

Thanks for the info, Bob. I appreciate your efforts.

Posted by:

Charles Benson
15 Aug 2009

Dear Bob,

Thank you because I learned from you a lot as well as with your editors, I meant your readers who posted comments, questions or suggestions.

Best Regards.

Charles Benson

Posted by:

21 Aug 2009

My banks' atm ate my card. This has happened in the past @ other banks-all I did was go to the bank and they would give it back.

When I went to my bank they said the atm is outsourced and they have nothing to do with its operation. This is pretty sketchy esp since there are many issues such as security involved.

I do not use atm anymore, if I need to make a deposit I make my deposit w/my slip in the depository.

When I shop I write the ck for $25 over so I always have some cash. I write cks or use cc's and pay off the balance ea mo.

Posted by:

29 Aug 2009

"When I shop I write the ck for $25 over so I always have some cash. I write cks or use cc's and pay off the balance ea mo"

Cheques are out of fashion. Using a CC for small amounts pushes up the cost to every purchaser as the fee is factored into the price.

Giving a retailer a cash or credit card can be risky; that is where much of the fraud originates.

If you want cash abroad, the ATM can be cheaper than exchanging cash, depending on the fees involved.

Posted by:

25 Sep 2009

I use cash for small transactions only - this is why I write the check for over the amount - and, I do not need to make a special trip to a bank or privately owned atm and pay a fee and wonder if it was safe. Most stores will not allow cc purchases under a certain amount anyways.

Avoiding atm's is much more important to me than the 'hassle' of writing checks - which large retailers merely print the tranaction amount on and no special swipe machine, additional signatures or duplicated copies of receipt are required. I make my check out in advance, and insert the transaction amount before handing it to the clerk-what could be easier. I am not interested in paying the fees charged if I am using a bank other than my own.

Cc's and checks allow me to monitor my transactions and give me a hard copy. I'm not really good at keeping track of the myriad of tiny slips accrued so this works great. To each his own... ;D

Posted by:

23 Oct 2009

Many scam victims are too embarrassed to talk about their losses. You information is helpful to protect ourselves from these popular scams.

Posted by:

Hank Elrod
08 Jan 2010

I recall an incident over 10 years ago where an entirely fake, yet very real-looking atm machine was set up in a shopping center parking lot. I think it was in New Jersey. Supposedly, when unsuspecting people attempted to retrieve money from their account, a message of 'out of order' or so showed up on the screen. Meanwhile, the crooks managed to record card swipes and matching pin #s from quite a few victims before the police confiscated the fake machine.

Posted by:

03 Sep 2010

Dear sir, i have been the victim of the nigerian atm scam , i have sent all ready around 500 dollars for the insurance of the carda and pacakging and then they sent me the card the first time i swiped i took less than 100 dollars and then thats it i felt this card may not be genuine i told the guy i dont wnat this any more and cancell this . he is now telling me for the cancellation of the payment i need to give 750 to the lawyer to do the undertaking letter since this pacage was done under my name to release my payment what should i do . he keeps calling me telling me to send this or else i will be in trouble with the law. i am panicing and i have only used that once . was this a reall card or for just once this card worked . i dont know what to do please help me

EDITOR'S NOTE: If your story is true, then of course go to the police. You've done nothing wrong, except to fall for a scam.

Posted by:

OmenYani Q.
21 Mar 2011

ATM fees are an unfortunate fact of life for out-of-network banking customers. With the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act cutting out the overdraft charges, banks are looking to jack up the ATM charges to migraine-inducing amounts. JP Morgan Chase is already testing out $5 non-customer ATM fees, states the Huffington Post.

Posted by:

04 Nov 2015

I want to purchase magic jack in with ATM in nigeria how can I do it

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