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Debit card identity theft by "skimming" is on the rise at automated teller machines (ATMs) and gas stations. Skimming occurs when a criminal places an electronic device on a debit or credit card reader, which takes information from the card’s magnetic strip whenever a customer uses the card in that machine. Skimming is a growing criminal activity that experts believe costs U.S. banks and their customers hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Skimming devices are planted on ATM and gas station card readers by the criminal and are usually undetectable by customers. These devices are designed to blend right into the machine’s façade. The specific device used is often a realistic-looking card reader placed over the actual ATM or gas pump card reader, or may be an insert covering parts of the card reader. When a customer inserts his or her bank or gas card into the device, the account information is swiped and stored within the device or sent wirelessly to other criminals waiting nearby.
In addition, skimming may involve the use of a hidden camera, installed on or near a machine, to record entry of personal identification numbers (PINs) onto the keypad. Alternatively the skimming method may involve attaching an imitation keypad attached on top of the real keypad, which records every keystroke as customers punch in their PINs. PINs may also be obtained by “shoulder surfing” whereby the criminal stands nearby and glances over the shoulder of the customer entering his or her PIN, remembering what he or she sees. By skimming the card number and seeing the PIN by shoulder surfing, the criminal has direct access to the customer’s account.
Skimming devices are installed for short periods of time, usually just a few hours, and are often attached to a machine by glue or double-sided tape. When removed by the criminals, stolen account information is downloaded and encoded onto blank cards. The cards and PINs can then be used to make withdrawals from customers’ accounts at other ATMs.
Consider the location: No ATM or other card reading machine, like a gas pump, is completely safe from skimming, but some locations are more vulnerable than others. ATMs at remote locations – such as airports, hotel lobbies, convenience stores, and parking lots – are often poorly monitored and therefore more vulnerable.
Be observant: Be aware of people around the machine and inspect the machine before using it. Note if the is anything about the machine which appears unusual. Check the card reader and the area near the PIN pad. Be suspicious if you see anything loose, crooked, or damaged, or notice scratches or adhesive/tape residue and don’t use the machine. Before swiping your card, give a small tug on the card reader and check the insert section of the card reader. If there is any movement or a device comes off, don’t use that machine as it could be a sign a skimming device was inserted. If a gas pump looks like the lock area has been tampered with, do not use it. Report any unusual appearance immediately to the ATM or gas pump operator and your financial institution.
Consider the time: Business hours are safer times for ATM use, because of a higher level of activity around branches, businesses and ATMs.
Protect your PIN: Cover the keyboard with your free hand to block the view of a hidden camera or shoulder surfer. By protecting your PIN, criminals can't access your account. Also, don’t carry your PIN with you or share it with others.
If your card isn’t returned after your transaction or after hitting “cancel,” call the ATM or gas pump operator and your financial institution immediately to report the incident. You may think your card was jammed by the machine’s card reader device but the device may be deliberately jammed by the criminal who will retrieve and use it immediately. In either case, you will require a replacement card. As an additional precaution, be wary of handwritten signs indicating an ATM or other machine is out of order. The sign may be directing you to use a compromised machine.
It is always important to check your account statement promptly upon receipt, or monitor your account regularly online for suspicious charges or withdrawals.
Trust your instincts. If in doubt, use another machine: If you suspect a compromised ATM, skimming activity or any other fraud attempt, call the number on the back of your card, and we will be happy to assist you. Rest assured, City National Bank is committed to fighting all forms of fraudulent activity.
Thank you for choosing us as your financial institution. We look forward to working with you to help safeguard your accounts and to provide you with excellent service.