How criminals are skimming your bank cards

A recent MyBroadband article warned users to be on the lookout for ATM card skimming devices (see Beware of these card skimming devices at ATMs), but this is only one way in which criminals are gathering card information.

There are various scams and social engineering tactics that card fraud perpetrators use to dupe unsuspecting ATM users, with the sole purpose of skimming their bank cards.

This article serves to warn people about the card skimming scams, and how to recognise them.

Social engineering and card skimming

One of the common scams, the South African Banking Information Centre (Sabric) warns, is a person claiming to work for a bank approaching unsuspecting ATM users while they are standing in an ATM queue.

The criminal then advises them to ‘re-activate’ their card by swiping it through a ‘card re-activating device’.

“Unbeknown to the victim, the device in the perpetrator’s possession is not a ‘card reactivating device’ but a hand held skimming device,” Sabric warns.

Incidents of this nature can happen either prior to the victim performing their transaction at the ATM, or after.

“Often there would be a second or even third person (accomplices) loitering around the ATM, shoulder surfing for the customer PINs,” Sabric said.

“The perpetrators would then use the information stolen through the skimming of the card to manufacture a counterfeit card, which, when matched with the customer PINs, is used to make fraudulent transactions.”

Here are some of the common hand held card skimming devices used by criminals in South Africa.

Card skimming devices
Card skimming devices
Handheld card skimming device
Hand held card skimming device

Damaged ATMs, or ATMs that have been tampered with

Another trick is where the perpetrator will approach a customer that is confronted with an ATM that has been tampered with and use social engineering tactics to take the customer’s ATM card.

They often escort the unsuspecting customer to another ATM to assist the customer with making a withdrawal.

Whilst on the way to the second ATM, the card will be skimmed with a hand held skimming device.

“What makes this scenario so alarming is that the victim is handed back their card – of course without noticing that it has been skimmed,” said Sabric.

“The interaction that the perpetrator had with the customer on the way to the second ATM provides room for the perpetrator to stand next to the customer and memorise the customer’s PIN as it is being keyed in.”

“The unsuspecting customer will only realise much later when money is being withdrawn from their account that they have fallen victim to a scam.”

Henk Vermeulen, fraud specialist at FNB, shows off one of the hand held devices commonly used to skim cards.

Card skimming device
Card skimming device
Handheld card skimming devices
Hand held card skimming devices
Handheld card skimming devices
Hand held card skimming devices

Card skimming at retail merchant points of payment

The skimming of cards can also take place at a merchant point of payment. In this particular scenario, personnel working at retail outlets such as waiters and cashiers are often provided with hand held skimming devices by card fraud perpetrators, and rewarded for skimming customers’ cards.

Here are some of the card skimming devices to look out for at outlets.

Point-of-sale card skimmer
Point of sale card skimmer (photo by News Talk Radio)

Advice from First Calgary Financial: If you cannot insert your chip card with your thumb pointed at the device and have your thumb remain fully on your card, tell the store clerk you believe the terminal has been tampered with. Do not enter your PIN and remove your card.

Point of sale card skimming
Point of sale card skimming (photo from asterisk)

ATMs which contain card skimming equipment

Criminals often install their card skimming devices and hidden cameras on ATMs to steal sensitive information from users.

These devices are used to copy card information on the magnetic strip when a customer inserts the card into the ATM.

Criminals purposefully design these devices to ensure they blend with the ‘look and feel’ of ATMs.

The card information stolen in this manner is commonly used to manufacture counterfeit cards.

Below is a sample of some of the most common card skimming devices that are attached to ATMs in South Africa.

ATM card skimming (image from ASE)
ATM card skimming (image from ASE)
ATM card skimming device
ATM card skimming device
ATM card skimming device
ATM card skimming device
ATM card skimming device
ATM card skimming device
ATM card skimming device back
ATM card skimming device back

More on card skimming

Don’t trust your ATM

Card fraud scammer sentenced

Latest news

Partner Content

Show comments

Recommended

Share this article
How criminals are skimming your bank cards