Miranda Tomic

 Tags: Fraud Bank Fraud

ATM "skimming” is an illegal activity that results in millions of dollars of theft annually from unsuspecting card holders worldwide. It is a two phase process in which criminals steal information from an ATM card’s magnetic strip and the associated Personal Identification (PIN) number. Though it is a common crime, a card holder who is aware of this danger and knows what signs to look for can protect himself and his wallet.

ATM skimming occurs when a criminal installs an undetectable device into a card reader at a machine or a bank vestibule entry point. This device records the card holder’s bank account data. Criminals create this device themselves. It is made out of plastic and looks similar to the original ATM card reader. It is often undetectable, but may be improperly affixed and/or visibly loose.

 Skimming Device

Image Credit: BB&T

In addition to the information garnered from the magnetic strip on an ATM card, the criminal also needs to obtain the PIN number. This can be obtained through the use of a hidden camera which records a customer’s entry at the machine. The hidden camera may be as small as a pinhole and may be located on a nearby object or on the machine itself, always with a clear view of the keypad. The card holder’s PIN may also be obtained through a keypad overlay. This device is placed directly over the original keypad and records the card holder’s strokes.



A skimming device will only last a few hours, so there is a small window of operation. The criminals must return to the site to retrieve the devices. They then encode the stolen data/information onto fraudulent blank cards at a safe house location, usually the same day. They use these illegally made cards to steal funds from customers’ accounts via ATM Machines.


  1. Visually and physically inspect the ATM (and any card reading machine - at banks, gas stations, etc.). Suspicion should be raised if you see anything loose, crooked, or damaged, or if you notice adhesive glue/tape residue. 

  2. Be extremely discreet when entering your PIN #. Block the keypad with your free hand to avoid information obtained by a hidden camera. 

  3. ATMs at tourist locations are often excellent targets for criminals. Use with caution. Using an ATM from a reputable bank is often a better bet as they perform periodic physical inspections of their machines for such devices. 

Subscribe to Blog