Any time you use an ATM or pay for gas at the pump using a credit or debit card, you are at risk. Criminals install “skimmers,” or card readers, that get your information off the card’s magnetic strip. Today the Colorado Division of Banking released some tips on how to avoid having your credit/debit information stolen through “skimming”:
1. Check for Tampering
At any ATM, check for signs of tampering or remote installations that don’t appear part of the machine (such as a small camera or wires that appear to be out of place). Look on the card reader and near the speakers. The keyboard should not have a film or cover on it or be more than one piece. There shouldn’t be any loose parts if you give a pull on something that protrudes, like the card reader. Even if these are in check, if something just doesn’t feel right about an ATM, don’t use it.
2. Wiggle and Cover
A good practice to get into is to wiggle your card a bit as you swipe it or push it into the reader. Skimmers reportedly have a harder time collecting the data because of the wiggle motion. You can also give a wiggle to the card reader mechanism, keypad and other parts to make sure nothing is loose. Additionally, always use a cover – your hand, your phone, a piece of paper – as you type in your PIN.
3. Use Indoor ATMs
High traffic areas with ATMs inside banks and grocery stores are typically safer than outdoor terminals. Also, the risks for skimming are higher on the weekends because criminals will install the skimmers on Saturdays or Sundays and then remove them before banks open on Monday. Be aware that today’s criminals are sophisticated and no ATM is completely safe.
4. Always Report It
Reporting suspicious activity or theft to your card issuer or bank as soon as possible is paramount to not being held liable to the amount you might lose if you fall victim to an ATM skimming attack. Most financial institutions have a zero liability policy that protect their customers, but there is still a process that needs to be followed. The sooner you report fraudulent activity the better!
You can find more about protecting yourself by checking out the Colorado Attorney General’s tips on preventing identity theft and, if you find that your personal information has been stolen, be sure to consult their Identity Theft Repair Kit, available online or in print from our library.