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ATM Scams

Although ATMs create convenience for customers and generate income or cost savings for banks, they also allow access to criminals, who have multiple methods of fraud in their arsenal—from sophisticated gadgets that allow them to steal personal information from a card when swiped, to setting up and operating their own ATMs. Unfortunately crime is a concurrent element of modern society and it benefits from the same technological advances that are created to open new opportunities.

What kinds of scams are out there?


Fraudsters make counterfeit ATM cards by using a skimmer, which is a card-swipe device that reads the information on a consumer's ATM card. Scammers take a blank card and encode all the information from an ATM card when they swipe immediately after the machine's last transaction. The skimmer catches the PIN (personal identification number) through a small camera mounted on the ATM. The consumer is unaware they've been scammed because the ATM card has not been stolen and still works at other machines.


The “Lebanese Loop” is another popular ATM scam. Scammers insert a portable steel loop into an ATM card slot. The scammer usually approaches the victim while at the machine, and poses as the person next in line. Victims are advised to enter their PINs three times and then hit cancel to get the machine to accept the cards. The scammer is able to memorize the PIN for future use and the machine keeps the card because of the excessive number of attempts to enter the correct PIN. Victims leave in frustration because they couldn't get any money and they've lost their card. Once the loop is taken out of the ATM the scammer has the card and the PIN number for future transactions. This is a relatively new scam that many experts believe will be short-lived due to fast technology upgrades.

How can you protect yourself?


Refrain from using your ATM / debit card when shopping. Use cash or credit card. If you have a check card, select "credit" instead of "debit". Selecting "Credit" requires your signature instead of using your PIN to authorize your purchase. Major credit cards have 100% Fraud Protection. With a debit card, you may have limited protection depending on how soon you notify your bank about the fraud. You also cannot cannot request stop payment on a purchase you are trying to dispute. Another drawback of a debit card is you do not establish your credit rating.


Change your pin regularly. Make it a habit to change your PIN regularly. This also applies to your email and online bank accounts as well. When you change PIN, do not use your birth date and digits taken from your telephone or Social Security number.


As much as possible, do not use non-bank ATM machines as the risk of ATM theft scams is higher than machines at your bank. Start going to one bank branch and use their ATM machine for all your future transactions. This way, you can get familiar with the machine (card slot or card reader) and its surroundings (number of security cameras and where it is located).


Another tip is find out the phone number of the branch and its 24 hour service number and save the number/s in your cell phone.


Before you use an ATM machine, check for dubious devices like extra video camera mounted to the ATM machine. This is another type of ATM scam in addition to skimming where thieves mount a wireless video camera inside the ATM area so they can watch you as you enter your PIN.


Check the card slot. Do you see a plastic strip or film sticking out? Is there anything glued to the card reader or cash dispenser?


If your card is stuck inside the card slot, do not leave the machine. Call the branch or the bank's 24 hour service number and report the incident by using your cell phone.


Also, never ever let a stranger help you in retrieving your ATM card. If somebody comes near you and offers help, say NO and make sure they leave you alone. This is another type of ATM scam. The thieves insert a blocking devise (a thin film inserted inside the card slot so that your card gets trapped inside). They come up to you and offer help. They will ask you to enter your PIN a couple of times. They may also hold the cancel button while you enter your PIN. This is just their way to memorize your PIN. Once you leave the ATM area, they will come back and take the glued film out. They now have your ATM card, PIN and money.


Use your body or hand to shield the ATM keypad from anyone standing behind you or next to you as you enter your PIN. Do the same if you decide to use your debit card at the supermarket or department stores. Don't let the store clerk and people behind or next to you watch you as you enter your PIN.


When you shop online, do not use your debit card, if possible. Also, take note that online shopping does not require you to enter your PIN.


When you receive an email from your bank, do not click on any link. If you are being asked to update any information, delete that email and open a new browser and type your bank's website yourself instead. It would be better if you delete your cache and cookies before going to your bank's website. When you're done checking your bank account, delete your cache and cookies again even if you're using your own computer.


Make it a habit to check your account often. Check for any unauthorized transactions and at the same time see to it that the amount debited to your account is correct.


Report any stolen or lost ATM card immediately.

In the US, if you’ve been scammed, contact the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Center at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/.

Source: http://www.banktech.com/blog/archives/2008/07/taking_atm_frau.html  http://www.creditunion.coop/scams.html  & http://www.ehow.com/how_4410876_avoid-atm-scam-atm-theft.html

Here's another great blog about ATM scams. We urge you take some time to spot the bogus card skimmers compared to the real ones.