Gallery: Telltale signs of ATM skimming

ATM skimming schemes involve installing fraudulent equipment that criminals use to steal credit and debit card numbers and PINs. Industry estimates calculate that ATM fraud costs banks and consumers billions of dollars annually. Here are a few things to look for the next time you need to hit the ATM.

ATM and card
City of Marion, Iowa

Fake readers

In an ATM skimming operation, criminals place a fake device on top of an otherwise valid card reader and steal card information and PIN numbers.

Fake card reader
City of Alexandria, VA

What's wrong here?

In this picture, a fake reader has been placed on top of the machine's authentic slot. On the next slide, we see what an authentic card reader looks like.


Authentic reader

An authentic card reader

This is what the reader looks like without the fraudulent device. Note the green-lighted perimeter.


Man watching person at ATM

Prying eyes

With a reader in place that is used to record the credit or debit card information, now all the thief needs to use it is a PIN. Shoulder-surfing thieves that are part of the skimming operation often stand behind and watch customers key in PINs.

Hidden camera above image
CSO staff

"Un-security" camera

Another way criminals get PIN numbers is by mounting a hidden cameras above in order to watch customers enter PINs.

phony keypad overlay

Keypad overlay

Another piece of equipment used in ATM skimming is a keypad overlay, which is a fairly new technique that often replaces the hidden camera, according to Circuitry inside the phony keypad records the strokes and retains the PIN number for future theft.

Gas station pump keypad

Gas station pump skimming

The FBI also warns credit and debit card users to be aware that skimming doesn’t just take place at ATMs. Gas pumps and other point-of-sale locations where customers swipe their cards and enter their PIN are also potential targets for fraudulent equipment. If it doesn't look right, don't use it.


ATM card reader

Tips to stay safe

You can find more tips for recognizing ATM skimming equipment in CSO's guide to ATM skimming: How to recognize card fraud and on the FBI's information page on skimming. 

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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