ATM and Debit Card Fraud

ATM scams are becoming increasingly widespread because criminals are employing hi-tech methods to hack into your bank accounts

ATM fraud is on the rise, law enforcement officials say, because thieves are becoming more and more sophisticated. Criminals have become very clever at finding new ways to access your funds so consumers need to pay careful attention to their bank statements in case there are unauthorized withdrawls because it’s more and more likely that someone has access to your bank account information.

ATM Machine Scams


How Criminals Steal Your Money

Methods used by criminals to gain entry to your money accounts include hacking into bank databases, phishing scams and unsolicited emails, the breaching of retailer computer systems and card skimming devices placed on ATM machines and gas pumps. There isn’t a lot you can do about thieves gaining illegal entry into computer systems and databases containing your financial information besides vigilance and reporting unusual activity but some of the other methods criminals use to break into your bank account are directed right at the consumer. In many cases people are handing crooks the keys to their accounts. Knowing something about the methods used might save consumers millions of dollars a year.

Magnetic Card skimmers steal your data

Some tech savvy thieves are placing ATM card skimming devices over the real card readers. They will also place a tiny camera somewhere on the ATM machine so that the information of the screen is recorded as well as your hand punching in your PIN number. All of this is often transmitted to the thieves who are often sitting in a nearby car. They now have everything they need to empty your account of its funds. This kind of scam has been reported in just about every major city in the world and people lose millions of dollars a year this way. Some of the card skimmers and cameras may be easy to detect but some of them take a trained eye and are only discovered when the ATM is serviced by a professional. If you notice anything out of the ordinary when using an ATM to withraw funds you might consider trying another machine and report your suspicions to the authorities.

Bandit ATM machines

Card skimming devices aren’t your only worry when it comes to ATM machines. Some clever scam artists have gone so far as to purchase ATM machines of their own which they installed and used to collect account information. Successfully detecting a skimming device may be tough but identifying a bandit ATM machine is next to impossible.

Your best chance at avoiding this kind of cash machine is by never using independent ATMs which is easier said than done. In some areas there might be a lot more privately owned ATMs than bank machines making it next to impossible to rely on only official bank-operated ATM machines. You should use your best judgement and, as always, keep an eye on your bank statements.

There is probably no way to completely safeguard your account information but vigilance and quick action when suspicious activity is detected could save you a bundle.

Phishing scams and unsolicited emails

Phishing is probably the easiest methiod for getting into your account and is so widespread that I receive several phishing emails every day. Some of them are quite clever but they all rely on poor judgment by the recipient to be effective.

Never click a link in an email to go to your bank, credit union, eBay account or anywhere else to log in if it’s related to your finances. Always go to these websites directly from your bookmark or by typing in the address yourself. If even that worries you then give the bank a call and ask them for information over the phone.

Following this simple rule will protect you from getting “phished” by a criminal. Every time you delete an email requesting that you click a link to enter your credentials on a banking website foils a phishing scam. This one is up to you.

Cab Driver Debit Card Scams

When you hand your cab driver your debit card, don’t take your eyes off of it for a second or you could become a victim of of this simple debit card switcheroo scam!

Cab drivers have been able to allow their passengers to pay for their rides electronically for some time. It’s convenient for both cab driver and their fares. Unfortunately, some cab drivers have stumbled upon a simple scheme that allows them to gain access to both your bank PIN number and debit card.

Here’s how this scam works: when the cab arrives at the destination you requested and you hand them your debit card, the cab driver will ask you to enter your PIN number into some sort of PIN-pad device. Once you’ve been told that the cab fare has been paid, the cabbie will hand your debit card back to you and you’re on your way. This is usually done quickly and often inside a cab with poor lighting. This allows the cab driver to trick you fairly easily. The PIN entry pad will not transmit your PIN to the bank to verify your credentials and debit your account. The device will, if this is a crooked cab driver, record your PIN for later use. The card handed back to you will not be the one you gave them. Now the cab driver has both your PIN number and your credit card and within moments they’ll hit an ATM and make the largest withdrawl your account will allow.

Victims are chosen carefully

You may wonder how cab drivers can get away with this and the answer is very simple. They choose their victims carefully and count on poor lighting. Many victims are selected for their degree of inebriation after being picked up near night clubs after dark. Drunks are easy to fool and a may not discover the theft or unauthorized use of their debit card until morning.

Report the crime immediately!

We advise everyone to be on the watch for this scam and enourage everyone to pay their cab fares with cash if possible. If you must pay by debit card, watch every move the cab driver makes. When the card is handed back, check carefully to make sure it’s yours. Remember to ask for a receipt when departing the cab. This will help ensure your account has been charged appropriately. It’s no guarantee, but if the cabbie can’t produce a receipt this is cause for suspicion.

If your debit card and/or PIN number has been stolen, report it immediately. Your liability depends on how soon your report the theft. If you are able to report it before your your card is used, you won’t lose a penny. If your card is used before you report, how much you lose will depend on how long it takes you to report the loss of your debit card. If you report the theft within 48 hours, your liability is limited to $50. After that you can expect to lose as much as $500. If you wait more than 60 days, the amount you could lose is unlimited!

If you’ve reported the loss of your card to the bank, you can’t be held responsible for additional withdrawls from your account.

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