Skimming is a type of fraud involving thieves using devices to read credit or debit card information. Skimmers are often hidden in ATMs, and they’re designed to look like the real thing so that you don’t notice them. However, there are some ways you can learn how to identify a skimmer at an ATM machine by paying attention to color, design and anything else out of place while using one.
ATM skimmers are devices that may be attached to the outside of ATMs.
You’ve probably seen these devices at ATMs and gas pumps. Skimmers are cards that fit over an ATM card reader or inside a slot where you insert your debit card into the machine. They capture your personal information to commit identity fraud. As those at SoFi state, “credit card skimmers have been around since 2015.”
Skimmers may be attached to the outside of ATMs or hidden inside a machine’s actual hardware—so be sure to check both sides of any ATM you use.
Identifying Signs of a Skimmer
If you’re looking for signs of a card skimmer, keep an eye out for any of the following:
- The ATM appears to be tampered with. Maybe there’s a sticker on the machine that wasn’t there before, or maybe it looks like something has been cut out.
- Anything that looks out of place—for example, if wires are hanging down from under the card reader or if there are stickers around the edges of your screen.
- Look at where your screen meets the body of your ATM—if you see the double-sided tape holding them together, this may be a sign that someone installed some sort of device inside your machine while they were working on it.
Protect your PIN at the ATM.
- Protect your PIN. Protecting yourself from having your PIN stolen is the first way to prevent skimming. You can do this by using your hand to shield the keypad from view and covering the number pad with a card as you enter it.
- Don’t use a phone or tablet to enter your PIN. Thieves can install skimmers that read card information from phones and tablets, so avoid using these devices at ATMs altogether if possible (or at least make sure you don’t let them see what you’re doing).
- Use caution when inserting cards into ATM machines—especially ones that are loose or appear odd. Do not insert more than one card into an ATM machine at once (this will result in multiple transactions), and do not accept cash on top of any other form of payment already inserted into the machine (this will result in additional fees).
Testing the ATM
The first step in spotting a skimmer is to look for signs of tampering. Some skimmers are easy to spot, while others may be more difficult. The following are some hidden cameras and card readers that could be on an ATM:
- A loose or broken seal on the ATM door.
- A loose or broken card reader on the front of the ATM.
- A loose or broken keypad near where you would enter your PIN number into an ATM machine.
If you see any of these indicators, call the police immediately!
Compare the color of the ATM to other ATMs nearby.
If you’re in a situation where multiple ATMs are near each other, look at how they compare. If one ATM is a different color from the others, it could be a sign that it’s fake.
The best way to protect yourself from skimmers is always to be aware of your surroundings. If you think there’s something suspicious about an ATM, don’t use it – even if it doesn’t look like it has been tampered with. And if you see anything unusual, call the police immediately so they can investigate.