ATM Skimmers

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ATM Skimmers

One of the newest Identity Theft technologies to emerge lately is Automated Teller Machine (ATM) skimming devices found on financial institution ATMs.  Skimmers are electronic devices that are cleverly disguised to blend in with an ATM’s appearance. Their purpose is to record the information that is stored on the magnetic strips of debit and credit cards. ATM skimmers can have two different hardware parts: a card reader and a camera.  The card reader is a plastic covering that is attached over the card slot using a sticky substance like glue or tape. This covering is usually bulky, but blends in because the color matches the ATM.  When a customer enters his or her debit/credit card into the card slot, the skimmer captures the card’s information and stores it in its memory.  Some skimmers can store hundreds to thousands of debit/credit card numbers.  At the same time the skimmer reads the card’s information from the magnetic strip, the camera, which is usually small and very difficult to detect, records the customer as they enter their Personal Identification Number (P.I.N.) on the keypad.  Sometimes, a false keypad may also be used to capture Personal Identification Numbers (P.I.N).  A thief will usually leave the skimming device in place for a day or two and then either return to the ATM to remove it or access the information remotely using a cell phone and a computer.

On January 30, 2010, the Cocoa Beach Police Department recovered a skimming device and false keypad at an ATM in their city.  During the course of that investigation, it was determined that the suspect used stolen debit/credit card information he obtained from the skimmer at ATMs in Satellite Beach, the unincorporated area of Indialantic and also at an ATM right here in town.  In total, the suspect was able to charge over $9,000 on several victims’ cards.  Over the past few weeks, reports of skimming devices have begun to increase across the state and country.

The following are some suggestions to help you avoid becoming a victim of this growing crime trend:

Be aware of your surroundings. Be extra careful of machines in dark areas or in places that don’t look well guarded and monitored.

Pay attention to the front of machines. If it looks different from others in the area (for example, it has an extra mirror on the face), has sticky residue on it (potentially from a device attached to it) or extra signage, use a different machine and notify bank management of your concerns.

Notice how it feels to type in your PIN code. If it’s difficult to punch the keys or you feel resistance, it could mean that a keypad overlay is present.

Cover your hand as you type in your PIN. If a camera is present or someone is trying to look over your shoulder, this will obstruct their view.

If you think the area around the card entry slot looks peculiar, pull on it. If it comes off or loosens, alert bank management but try to leave the machine as you found it. Leaving the evidence in place could help authorities track down the criminals.

If you find a skimming device, in addition to notifying bank management, notify local law enforcement.

Keep your PIN safe. Don’t give it to anyone.

Watch out for people who try to “help” you at an ATM.

Look at the ATM before using it. If it doesn’t look right, don’t use it.

If an ATM has any unusual signage, don’t use it. No bank would hang a sign that says, “Swipe your card here before inserting it in the card reader” or something to that effect.

If your card is not returned after the transaction or after pressing cancel, immediately contact the institution that issued it.

Check your statements to be sure there are no unusual withdrawals.

Contact Detective Michael Connor at 321-723-7788 if you have any questions about these devices and how they work.