Identity Theft Thrives with ATM Skimming Scams

2010 experienced a 33% increase in identity theft over 2009 and the Better Business Bureau is warning that ATM skimming is a growing problem. One in five Americans have fallen victim to this category of fraud, and in some parts of the country, you’re now more likely to be scammed while making withdrawals than being a victim of a direct, physical crime.

“The devices have become more sophisticated over time,” says Don Carroll of the U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force. He says technology may be contributing to the increase in criminal activity.

The best way to thwart identity thieves is to learn the tactics they use so you can be more cautious at the cash dispenser. Some scammers stick a magnetic stripe reader (the skimmer) over top of the card slot, while placing a fake number pad as well. They look so legit that many people don’t notice a difference. The machine functions normally, you walk away with your cash, and the con just captured your card information and your PIN number.

Another way that swindlers can sneak a peek at your PIN is by installing tiny cameras in brochure holders and elsewhere to record your entire transaction.

If tampered-with ATM machines weren’t scary enough, scumbags can buy used machines off eBay or Craigslist and reprogram them to do all their dirty work. They set them up on street corners, near convenience stores, and other inconspicuous places. Once users insert their information, they receive an error message, assume it’s broken, and don’t think much of it. However, the thief is collecting their data, and then quickly relocates the machine after a day to two so it won’t be suspected.

Simple tips to protect yourself from these frauds include only using ATMs at banks and credit unions, since these are less likely to be tampered with. Avoid stand alone machines outside of stores and bars. Also, take a close look at the card slot, key pad, and surrounding objects. Experts suggest even jiggling them slightly to make sure they are secure. When you’re entering your PIN number, use your other hand to hide your input.

As of January 4th, nine secure data breaches have already been reported in 2011. Identity theft is thriving and every measure should be taken to protect your personal information.

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Categories: Identity Theft

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