ATM Skimming 101: How to Keep Safe

Kitten and others emphasize that ATM transactions are mostly secure. According to the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA), just .0016 percent of the billions of worldwide ATM transactions are affected by crime or fraud.

But they also think that as Canada and European countries abandon the magnetic strip system for a microchip-based approach that is thought to be more secure, ATM fraud in the U.S. could increase.

Consumers Not Responsible for Charges or Withdrawals They Didn't Initiate

For their part, banks stress that they are taking the necessary precautions to protect their customers.

"Consumers should know that they would not be responsible for any charges or money taken out that they didn't do," said Tom Kelly, a spokesman for Chase.

As for the skimming attacks recently reported in New York, Kelly said, "There are a number of security measures that we take that we can't really talk about. We've stepped up our efforts."

Consumers Concerned About ATM Fraud

Still, despite assurances that their money is safe, U.S. consumers say ATM security is a major concern.

A February study commissioned by Level Four, an ATM software company, found that 67 percent of American adults would consider switching to a competitor if their bank suffered an instance of ATM fraud.

Steven Lund, president of Level Four Americas, LLC, told that rising fraud in many European countries is what led them to replace the magnetic strip technology with the "chip and PIN" approach (also known as EMV for Europay, Mastercard and Visa).

But, "since the U.S. has not adopted EMV, it's our feeling that we'll see increasing fraudulent activity," he said. "Criminals will go to where to commit fraud is easiest."

The ATMIA says that countries that have adopted the chip and PIN technology have reduced cash losses, but because of the major expense involved in rehauling the system and the relative rarity of ATM skimming, U.S. banks have been reluctant abandon the magnetic strip.

Bank ATMs More Vulnerable Than Stand-Alone ATMs

Lana Harmelink, chief operating officer of the ATMIA, also told that another change has increased the vulnerability of ATMs stationed at bank branches.

As ATMs located in grocery and corner stores (and stand-alone machines on the street) switch to technology that encrypts the PIN pad, criminals are finding it harder and harder to hack into those machines, she said. Also, because they're often positioned near a cash register, under the watchful eye of cashier or store owner, it's more difficult for fraudsters to install skimmers without being caught.

"We're seeing it move from ATMs off-premise to ATMs at banks," she said. "Banks are more the target."

Bank ATMs are also more highly trafficked, which means a bigger potential payoff for the criminals, she said. In a given month, a convenient store ATM might see 150 to 200 transactions, while a bank branch ATM might have 1,500 to 2,000 transactions.

Anticipating an increasing threat, security and surveillance firm ADT Security Services unveiled new antiskimming technology just this March.

Each year, the company hosts a symposium for its biggest banking customers and said that, more recently, interest around skimming has grown.

Tips to Stay Safe From ATM Skimming

"We did notice over the last couple of years that more and more of our customers were beginning to raise concerns about skimming," said Hank Monaco, vice president of commercial marketing for ADT.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...