How Crooks Steal or "Skim" Your ATM Card

You could be giving crooks your ATM card number and PIN without knowing it. How? Thieves install skimmers that read your card while you use an ATM. Everything goes smoothly, so you don’t even realize that your numbers have been stolen. The above clip is from the Today show and features a detective from Boston who demonstrates how the technology works.

Why do we suddenly want to watch The Departed? Anyway, after talking with the detective the Today show set up their own skimming operation in Times Square. Just about 1/2 of the people who used the ATM fell for a skimming box located just outside the door where the swipe pad that unlocks the door would normally be. Sad.—MEGHANN MARCO

Scam Proof Your Life [MSNBC]


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  1. ptkdude says:

    Here’s how I get around the issue of the “access” box possible skimming my card info: I use an old iTunes gift card (with magnetic strip) to open the door to the bank’s ATM lobby. This seems to work with ANY magnetic strip card, as I’ve previously used gift cards from Walgreens and WalMart, and even my old ID badge from work.

  2. I have never seen a door that requires you to scan your ATM card. What purpose does that serve?

  3. EtherealStrife says:

    Thanks for the vid, I’m going to have to send it to all my relatives. They’re a bit clueless when it comes to atm cards (most of em still use checks and ask for money back).

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Banks don’t want random vandals messing up their stuff, or bumming off their lobbies, or stealing from them. Locally I never see the atm lobbies, but I noticed them on a trip to Canada. I assume they’re located in places that occasionally get snow? :-P The anti-robbery aspects would be nice out here, but that alone probably isn’t worth it.

  4. GearheadGeek says:

    In “rougher” urban areas it’s quite common to have the ATM in a space that you need a mag-stripe card to access to make you feel safer at the ATM. Of course criminals never have any mag-stripe cards… nope, never. Not their own, not stolen ones. Can you say “False sense of security”? I knew you could….

  5. quantum-shaman says:

    I had my card skimmed once but it was at one of those stand-alone after-market machines they install in 7-11s. I would presume that bank ATMs are more secure but that may just be my false sense of security talking.

  6. Jory says:

    @GearheadGeek: The card-reader for entry is not meant to keep out “criminals.”

    Its meant to keep bums from sleeping/living in the 24-hour ATM storefronts, which is why these things are everywhere in NYC.

  7. The door swipers are to keep homeless people out. Often times the rooms are air conditioned and relatively nice compared to the outside air in the evening.

  8. bluwapadoo says:

    PIN number is redundant. So is ATM machine.

  9. mac-phisto says:

    i thought this one was real informative too:

    bottom line: no matter how safe you are, it is virtually impossible to protect your card from being compromised 100% of the time. be smart & check your accounts periodically. save & compare receipts. report fraud as soon as you notice it. that is your best protection.

  10. ptkdude says:

    FYI, I live in metro-Atlanta; not the WORST part of town, but not the best, either. Every Washington Mutual I have ever been to (even in other parts of the country) have the ATM vestibule or portico or whatever it’s called.

  11. pestie says:

    …your ATM card number and PIN number…

    Don’t you mean “your ATM machine card and PIN number?” Heh…

  12. matukonyc says:

    In New York City (and I presume every major city), one does need to swipe a magnetic card to gain access to the ATM machines, unless they’re outside.

  13. Sorenso says:

    I noticed that too.

    PIN = Personal Identification Number. So there isn’t a need to say PIN and the word number after it. You’re saying Personal Identification Number Number. Same thing with ATM “machine” :p

  14. kimsama says:

    Or you can just call them MAC machines and then you’ll be non-redundant and supercool. Northeast, represent! ^_^

  15. QuirkyRachel says:

    Interesting. So you can use any card that has a bar code to open the door? I’ll have to try that. I figured they had that at the bank to ensure that only their own customers got inside.

  16. suckonthat says:

    If this happens, are you liable for the missing money?