The Definition: The ATM Scam is costing citizens of the
The Mark: Nobody is immune, and no individual is more or less susceptible than another – with the exception of those visiting this site, that is. Armed with the lessons that shining a bright light on this hustle will teach you, you have a much better chance of avoiding this swindle.
The Scam: Our thieves have for the moment morphed into a “geek squad,” putting their technical talents to work fabricating a magnetic-strip reader. This will be fitted to a slot that will overlay the actual slot on an ATM machine. When it is in place, only careful examination will reveal that it is not an original part of the machine, but a nefarious add-on designed to steal sensitive information. The device is called a “skimmer.” Also built into this fabricated piece is a pin-hole camera, which will capture your PIN as you punch it into the keyboard.
Our scammer finds a likely cash point location, and when alone, casually performs what looks like a normal ATM transaction. But what he has really done is the equivalent of a highwayman setting up an ambush on a country road – he has installed a device that will ambush the precious information on your ATM card’s magnetic strip.
To enhance the scam, another of the hustlers will perform a transaction on the ATM directly in front of the first mark, subconsciously reinforcing in the mark’s mind that the ATM is perfectly safe and operating normally.
What happens next is predictable: a series of marks walk up to the machine and perform ordinary transactions, which the ATM handles in an ordinary way. After the device has collected and stored enough information, our original dip returns to the hijacked machine and removes the skimmer. What follows turns the improvised skimming mechanism into a cash machine in and of itself.
Back at the lair, the purloined information on the skimmer is downloaded into a PC through the use of a card reader. Then, using any card with a magnetic strip (a mobile top-up card is most popular these days), a new card is created using the stolen numbers. This is done by swiping the top-up through a reader which erases the existing information on the mag strip, and swiping again to transfer the information from the PC to the freshly-erased strip. The top-up card has now become a clone of your ATM card!
All that remains for the scammer to do is to visit a cash-point and take your money. All that remains of your savings account is dust.
The Lesson Learned: Now that you are aware of the way this scam operates, there are methods you can use to avoid becoming a victim. First, make sure you examine the machine thoroughly before you insert your card. This doesn’t need to take an hour, just a few moments to observe that all the parts of the machine are the proper color and finish; and that nothing looks like it’s sticking out awkwardly, or is otherwise disproportionate. Look for any sign of a pinhole camera, too. If anything looks wrong – walk away. Use another machine.
One final thing: a fail-safe. ALWAYS shield your PIN number. If the scammers cannot read that, all the mag strip information in the world will avail them nothing.