Identify thieves have figured out how to recreate credit and debit cards from the card numbers and personal identification numbers which means they do not need to physically have your card in their possession to use it. Some thieves set up elaborate systems on ATMs in order to grab the card details they need to have matching magnetic strips created and installed on fake cards.

Before you swipe your card through an ATM you should take a minute to look for anything suspicious. The extra few seconds of precaution can save you from becoming the next ATM fraud victim. Thieves don’t have a ton of time when setting up cameras and other equipment to steal card data and personal identification numbers so if you take a second to consciously look for something suspicious there is a good chance you’ll find it before you put your card at risk for theft.

Bank ATM/debit cards don’t always offer the same protections for fraud as credit cards. If someone manages to steal your debit card number and PIN, it can be difficult to recover the money spent unlike the $0 fraud liability for unauthorized charges made on credit cards. Here’s what you need to look out for when using the ATM:

Hidden Cameras

Before you take your card out to use the ATM, look up at the light shining on the keypad. It’s usually in the hood of the ATM, located above the screen. Look for anything that might be a small camera. The camera would be used to record your PIN as you enter it on the keypad.

When you enter your PIN on any keypad, ATM or at a gas pump or retailer, it’s also a good idea to use your other hand to kind of shield yourself as you enter your PIN. That way, if there are cameras set up anywhere, they will be unable to see what numbers you push.

Fake Card Readers

Before swiping your card through the card reader, check that there is only one reader connected to the ATM. Sometimes a thief will place a reader inside the ATM card reader. When you swipe your card through, the data is recorded and saved for the thief to use. Wiggle the card reader with your hands to see if it is securely connected to the ATM.  If the reader moves or slides around, you should use a different ATM as there is a good possibility that reader was installed hastily by a thief looking to steal debit card data.

Fake card readers are not only a problem for ATMs. Similar fraudulent activity has been performed on vending machines that accept credit cards and also Redbox units. If you can swipe your card – double check the reader is legit before making your purchase.

Fake Keypads

Another possibility for fraud involving the ATM stems from fake keypads. These keypads will look quite identical to the real keypad, but can usually be detected because they don’t fit securely on the machine. Before you enter your PIN, check that you can’t slide the keypad off the ATM or that it doesn’t peel off.

ATM Personal Safety

People generally use the ATM for one of two activities, both involving cash. You visit an ATM to deposit money or withdraw money – and some thieves will target an ATM to rob an individual as the money is being withdrawn. The U.S. Department of Justice statistics show most ATM robbers are younger men who use a weapon to threaten or attack people as they withdraw money. About 15% of victims are injured or killed during the robbery, and the average loss is between $100 and $200. The majority of ATM theft occurs at night, in areas where street drug trade is high, and the victims tend to be using a walk-up ATM.

When using an ATM, be cautious and aware of your surroundings. If you feel uneasy or see suspicious looking people near the ATM – keep walking. Try to plan your banking so you can avoid using outdoor, walk-up ATMs after dark.

And while you’re worrying about all these threats, you may want to learn about some new low-tech approaches to ATM crime.

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