What You Need To Know About ATM Skimming (And How To Avoid It)

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020
person inserting debit card into ATM

Updated on 10/12/2020


ATM skimming is a method used by criminals to capture data from a debit or credit card. In the past, theft and fraud were limited to in-person methods. Now, criminals don’t even have to be around you to get your information. It’s important to know how skimming devices work and how you can protect your money.


How do skimmers (and criminals) work?

Skimmers are devices attached to the top of the card reader that use the magnetic stripe on the card to swipe your data. Sometimes the criminal will put a hidden camera close by to try to see the PIN number you enter. If they do this, they will have the information from your card as well as your PIN. A fake PIN pad can also be directly installed over the keyboard. The largest type of skimming device (besides an entirely fake ATM) is a faceplate that holds all of these devices.

How to prevent your credit card from being skimmed

There are some steps you can take to protect yourself from card skimmers. Remember that high traffic machines are less likely to be hit by criminals because they are often in use. ATMs at restaurants, for example, aren’t monitored as much as those that are outside of banks. ATMs inside banks or grocery stores are typically safer. But, no ATM or card reader is 100% safe from skimmers. Here are some other tips to keep in mind.

Evaluate the ATM

When you go to use an ATM, look for obvious signs of tampering. These can be on the top of the machine, on the side of the screen, near the speakers, in the card reader, and on the keyboard/PIN pad.

  • Look out for graphics that aren’t aligned, different colors or materials, or anything else that seems suspicious.
  • ATMs are solidly constructed and shouldn’t have any loose parts. Jiggle everything to see if it’s loose.
  • The same is true for credit card readers at the checkout line. If the keyboard doesn’t feel right, there may be a skimming overlay.
  • Pull at the parts that stick out, like the card reader. If they come off, do not use the ATM and alert a manager.
  • See if the keyboard is securely attached and in one piece.
  • Check the receipt dispenser for cracks.

Protect your PIN

Always cover the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN. Don’t use your card’s magstripe to make a transaction if you have another option. An EMV chip is much safer. Consider using Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Android Pay, which tokenize your card security information. If you are ever in doubt about using an ATM, go to your bank to withdraw cash.

What to do if you have been hit by skimmers

If you suspect your card data has been stolen, report it to your financial institution or card issuer immediately. You do not want to be held liable for any lost funds. Try to use a credit card instead of a debit card when possible since the transactions can be halted before payment is made. If you believe you have found an ATM with skimming devices, tell the manager or owner of the building you are at. They will want to know if their machine has been tampered with. You could be helping other patrons too.

Want to learn more about financial security?

At Borger Federal Credit Union, we take your financial health seriously. As a member of our institution, you can receive a wide variety of benefits, including overdraft alerts and control over your debit card with the CardValet app.

You can reach us at (806) 273-9506 or visit us at 1051 N. Florida in Borger, Texas for more information about Membership. If you live, work, worship, or attend school within Hutchinson, Carson, or Gray counties, you can join the BFCU family!