"ATM skimming" is taking information, such as the card number or the PIN, from a customer while he or she uses the ATM. Often, the act of skimming doesn't interfere with the customer's transaction, so a customer might not even know his or her account is vulnerable until seeing fraudulent charges on the bank statement later.
Often, skimming involves hidden cameras, keypad overlays and a card reading device installed over an ATM's regular card reading device, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's page on skimming scams.
ATMs are not the only targets in skimming scehemes, according to the FBI. Skimmers have also installed devices at gas pumps and other point-of-sale locations where customers swipe their cards and enter their PIN, the FBI reported.
Several high-profile local cases have involved multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Bellevue Police Department, which was involved with the following two skimming cases earlier this year:
How to Avoid Being "Skimmed"
- Inspect the ATM, gas pump, or credit card reader before using it…be suspicious if you see anything loose, crooked, or damaged, or if you notice scratches or adhesive/tape residue.
- When entering your PIN, block the keypad with your other hand to prevent possible hidden cameras from recording your number.
- If possible, use an ATM at an inside location (less access for criminals to install skimmers).
- Be careful of ATMs in tourist areas…they are a popular target of skimmers.
- If your card isn’t returned after the transaction or after hitting “cancel,” immediately contact the financial institution that issued the card.
- Information from the Federal Bureau of Investigations