Getting Quick Cash can open the Door for Skimming

What is skimming?

Anyone who has run to an ATM for quick cash has put themselves at risk for skimming. Skimming is a new type of thievery in the 21st century. Thieves set up electronic equipment that captures magnetic stripes on your ATM card. It stores your PIN number and then thieves use the information to withdraw money from your account. The technique is used at gas pumps, restaurants, ATM machine kiosks and retailers. Skimming is a growing security concern in 2010.

Avivah Litan, an analyst specializing in fraud detection and prevention at Gartner Research, said, “As economic conditions have worsened, there’s been a noticeable increase in all types of card fraud. But ATM and debit-card fraud is the top area of concern we are hearing about from banks all over the world.” Now that debit card spending is growing, the door is open for more fraud and consumers are warned to be careful with what locations they use to withdraw money and pay for items.

Gas stations the number one security risk

The number one location where skimming is prevalent is at the gas pump. Too many people get their gas on the fly. They pull up and use their cards as a debit card – inputting their PIN number. The problem is that when that PIN is entered, anyone who may have breached security at that location has access to your account. Litan said, “Gas pumps are notorious for skimming because they are produced by only a couple of different manufacturers, and if someone gets the key to one from a disgruntled employee, they can insert a skimming device inside the pump where it can’t be seen.” The safest thing to do is to use a bank card as a credit card when getting gas at a pump.

Use ATMs at bank locations

If you want to get quick cash, go to an ATM located at a bank, rather than one at a convenience store, corner or airport. Darrin Blackford, spokesman for the US Secret Service, said, “A thief has to be able to attach and retrieve a skimming device to use the data it has gathered. That’s much more likely to happen in nonbank settings where there is less traffic and no surveillance cameras.” Your best bet is to stick to bank-attached ATMs, but they aren’t foolproof. Blackford added, “It’s often hard to spot skimmers, but if you notice a change at an ATM you use frequently, such as a color difference in the card reader or a gap where something appears to be glued onto the slot where you inserted your card, that’s a warning sign.” He instructs users to report the machine to the bank immediately.

Watch bank account activity

Another way to protect yourself from ATM skimming is to watch bank accounts vigilantly. Federal law limits liability for fraud on a debit-card to $50, but only if the lost card or theft is reported within two days of the problem. If you don’t report it in time, unauthorized charges could be your responsibility. It’s very important to do a check online of all activity to your account and be sure the charges are authorized. Now that most people are going “paper-less” with their banking, they have access to transactions in “real time.” It makes it much more convenient to keep track of spending and charges to an account.

Keeping accounts safe from skimming

Skimming is a new form of robbery. It involves taking advantage of consumers looking for quick cash at various ATM, gas stations, retail outlets and restaurant locations. To be safe, people need to be aware of the locations they use for withdrawing cash and making purchases.

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