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ATM skimming has taken an unfathomable rise over the years. It involves stealing debit card numbers and transaction history using illegal card reading devices.

You can think of it as an identity theft, but of debit cards. With more and more people using ATM machines to conduct financial transactions or simply to takeout cash, the number of ATM scams has increased simultaneously.

ATM skimming is highly prevalent in the United States, Canada, and different parts of Europe.


Anyone could fall into the skimmers trap, but tourists are often susceptible to such frauds. With ATM machines located in popular tourist places, skimmers can easily drain your bank account dry.

How is ATM Skimming Done?

There are different techniques used by ATM skimmers to steal your debit card information.

ATM skimmers would implement a card-reading device somewhere on the ATM machine. When you enter your debit card, the malicious device will read off your data through the magnetic strip.

Since your ATM data is useless without an ATM pin, a skimmer would install a hidden camera or use a malicious device to record your inputs into the keypad.

They can then make duplicate cards based on your bank account details and run your funds into the ground.

Here is a privacy consultant discovering an ATM skimmer in Vienna:

How to Detect and Avoid ATM Skimming?

4 Minutes Review time
ATM skimming maybe oblivious to the naked eye, but you can follow certain tips and check for different components on the ATM machine to avoid such frauds.

Here are few ways to detect and avoid ATM skimming that will only take you 4 minutes:

Check Different Component on the ATM Machine

ATM machines are built to withstand most brutal of blows. There shouldn’t be any fragile parts on the ATM machine.

Therefore, before entering your ATM card, check for flimsy components on the machine. Some of these include the card slot, keyboard, or look for any part that might look suspicious.

One of way identifying if the part is malicious is by wiggling it. As shown in the video, the privacy consultant was able to rip apart the key slot.

In addition to checking different components, scan different areas of the ATM machine as well.

Many ATM skimming devices are glued onto the actual device, you can highlight malicious parts.

For instance, if a malicious card reader is placed on top of the actual card reader, it will obscure the flashing light. This way you will know something is wrong.

Cover the Keypad

When you are entering your ATM pin, cover the keypad. Always think that there is someone snooping down on you.

As part of ATM Skimming, the attacker may install hidden cameras to record your ATM pin. Therefore, it is better to cover the keypad whenever making a transaction.

Try to Find a Legit Bank ATM

The city is full of third party ATM machines, well placed in locations such as bars and near departmental stores, which might entice you to go the easy way and just use it.


Always remember to use a legit bank ATM as it is much safer than a third party ATM. And in some cases it also increases the chances of getting your stolen cash back.

Use Different Cards While You Travel

It is a good idea to carry multiple cards, especially when you are travelling and dedicate each card for a purpose for example, one just for ATM withdrawals, another one just for making purchases and another one for online banking.

This way even if one of your card is compromised, you won’t drop down to the ground. This idea saves your money and also is good if you are travelling abroad, imagine what you would do if your card gets frozen in a country where you know no body.

Regularly Check Your Bank Statements

The best idea to keep your money safe is to regularly check your bank accounts, you should also be careful because someone might commit an illegal transaction or activity with your details.


If you regularly check your bank accounts you will be at a better standing. This also increases the chances of getting your money back as the sooner you report the better the chances of getting your money back and catching the criminal.

Final Thoughts

ATM skimming is a new type of threat security experts are trying to curtail.

The problem with this crime is that there is little chance of recovery of banking funds in most countries.

That said, if the attack is reported within sixty days, then under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, a consumer is not liable for the stolen funds due to ATM skimming.

Different banks offer protection for the loss of funds due to ATM frauds. However, the process is painstaking at times and it could take several days before you recover your funds. Therefore, it is better to take precautions, before you fall victim to ATM skimming.

Aazim Akhtar

Aazim Akhtar

Senior Editor

Aazim Akhtar's Biography :

A privacy advocate by day and a binge-watcher by night, Aazim Akhtar loves to write about online security, internet freedom, and all the latest technological trends. Finding ways to secure any sensitive data and protect against existing and emerging cyber threats is his passion. Follow him on Twitter to stay in touch with his work!

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