Beware ATM card skimming – Here’s how to spot dodgy ATMs

There has been a significant increase in ATM card skimming across South Africa, according to South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) acting CEO Susan Potgieter.

This type of crime involves criminals tampering with ATMs by inserting hardware into the card slot which clones the card data of the unsuspecting user.

A similar method of ATM tampering is when criminals insert a fake keypad over the legitimate one to record the users’ PIN.

These devices are often ingeniously designed and are difficult to detect by just looking at the ATM itself.

Potgieter told MyBroadband that users should be especially wary when using ATMs in public places which see frequent use.

Spotting skimmers

“There are various types of ATM-mounted skimming devices, it all depends on the make of the skimming device and the area criminals want to target,” Potgieter said.

“Typical targets include ATMs at shopping malls and garages, as well as ATMs in affluent areas.”

“It is crucial to make it a habit to physically inspect the ATM as you approach it and look for any loose, foreign objects,” she said.

“The best way is to lightly shake the card reader and PIN pad to see if either one comes loose, as these devices are often stuck to the ATM with two-way tape.”

To remain as safe as possible while using ATMs, South Africans can follow the steps below:

  • Check that the ATM is in working order before using it.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and ensure that there is nobody in the immediate vicinity when you transact.
  • Always make sure that you check the card reader and PIN pad before transacting by gently shaking them.
  • Never allow anyone to assist you at the ATM, even if they look like a bank official.

The golden rule

In addition to the steps outlined above, Potgieter said that users should follow the golden rule of covering their PIN code with their hand.

“The ATM-mounted skimming device has a pinhole camera attached to the device that captures your PIN,” she said.

“We strongly advise bank customers to use both hands when entering their PIN. Use one hand to enter the PIN and the other hand to cover the hand entering the PIN.”

Covering your PIN prevents any hidden hardware from recording your keystrokes and potentially compromising your funds.

These skimming devices can be very difficult to protect against, and ATM users should always take the precautions listed above to ensure they do not fall victim to this type of crime.

Skimming devices

Below are some examples of card skimming hardware which show how difficult it can be to identify whether the ATM you are using has been rigged.

These images are courtesy of ShieldYourPIN, an online resource which aims to help banking customers defend against ATM skimming.

Card Skimmer 1

Card Skimmer 2

Card Skimmer 3

Card Skimmer 4

Card Skimmer 5

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Beware ATM card skimming – Here’s how to spot dodgy ATMs