ATM Skim Scammers Steal Cards With Old Cassette Recorders

Fraudsters are cracking open old handheld cassette recorders and using their components to build ATM skimmers that steal your credit card numbers.

audiodecoder.jpgThe devices use the cheap data recording abilities of the cassette player to copy the magnetic information on the credit card. A separate microcamera records the victim’s PIN codes as they punch them in. The magnetic strip is later decoded using a custom .WAV analysis program. KrebsOnSecurity recently got a manufacturer of one of these devices to shoot him over some pictures of his wares.

Pretty clever what these punks can get up to. I usually reflexively check out the ATMs I use, pulling on the card reader and looking around for hidden camera holes. At the very least it’s a way to pass the time while you wait for your cash to dispense.

Crooks Rock Audio-based ATM Skimmers [KrebsOnSecurity]


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  1. NashuaConsumerist says:

    That pic above does not look like the innards of a walkman…is that an integrated USB port on the right of the PCB?

  2. TooManyHobbies says:

    Since when do Walkmans have record functions? Never AFAIK. Or at least very unlikely.

    More likely this was a cheap standard handheld cassette recorder. Walkmans were play only. I owned a couple of them over the years.

  3. carefree dude says:

    I wonder if anyone has ever broken an ATM machine, thinking it had a skimmer but mistakenly pulled off the face instead.

    • ScottCh says:

      They tend to be solidly made, probably because of those false rumors that they’re full of delicious chocolate inside.

  4. McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

    It’s kinda neat that you can just read the wave to get the binary by sight alone.

    I’m not the only one who tried that, right? :)

  5. Hoss says:

    I was wondering why Bank of America plays the Bee Gees

  6. Blueskylaw says:

    I was wondering why the price of old walkmans was going up,
    along with gold futures.

  7. MongoAngryMongoSmash says:

    What happens if I stick my old Beastie Boys tape into the ATM?

  8. brianisthegreatest says:

    I’m always checking for these things now. Though, Wachovia’s atm card readers are indented considerably, so it’d be hard to get something in there without notice. Though, I’m sure people are sneaky. I still give a good look, and I always cover my hands when I am keying in my pin.

  9. Gravitational Eddy says:

    It’s getting worse. Local LEO’s were showing off a couple of skimmers that were installed into self serve gas pumps without anybody knowing about it.
    It was installed after hours, and nobody knows how long it was in place or how many cards it compromised.
    It didn’t even need the keypad info apparently. According to the experts, it was advanced beyond what they had seen before and even saved data, then downloaded it to a local (nearby) receiver when commanded.. Everyone who used that gas pump with a card (debit or credit) was possibly compromised.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      probably stealing just credit card info. Think how many people use ONLY debit cards vs. credit cards that don’t need a PIN.

    • Qntmcat says:

      Gas stations in my area have started placing paper seals with the words “Please notify cashier if this seal is broken” over the seam where the access panel could be jimmied open or picked.

      I have to say, though, the imp of the perverse in most people is bound to cause a high “false positive” reading on this.

  10. c!tizen says:

    whatever happened to the good old days of in person muggings? These kids are just plain lazy.

  11. Alvis says:

    Nothing new. I built a magstripe reader out of a casette tape head back in 99. Instructions have been on on the internet for years and BBSes prior.

  12. tz says:


    Do not set your microwave for more than 1 second…

  13. Razor512 says:

    People need to learn hos to check for skimmers, ATM’s should have instructions on how to check.

    over where I live, in a nearby mall, there is a chase bank inside of the mall and outside of the bank (but inside the mall) was an atm machine with a card skimmer on it. I could tell by the loose faceplate on the atm machine, in which people would just push back into place and continue to use. since I used to pass by the mall when coming home from school, I noticed that the skimmer was there for like 3 days before disappearing (in which I assume the criminal removed it in order to check what was collected.

    The sad part is that there are 2 security cams pointed at the row of atm’s

    Customers don’t know how to spot them and workers don’t know how to spot them.

    And no, people who know one is there are not likely to report it because reporting generally makes you into a suspect. The weird thing is that i haven’t notice skimmers on the credit card slots at the gas station.

    (this was a long time ago and instead of using a PCB, the criminal used just wires to connect everything, and also tape to hold everything together in order to make if flexible so it can be folded in a custom shape)

    I wish the media could provide more coverage on these issues (while they may not be the most entertaining news, it is important for people to know)