How to Avoid Credit Card and Debit Card Skimmers at the ATM

Skimmers are legitimate looking card readers that grab the information from your card, once inserted. Typically, skimmers are attached to ATM terminals so that they can grab information from everyone and anyone who swipes their card. Some skimmers even allow for the ATM user to complete their intended transaction (retrieve money from the account, check account balance, deposit funds, etc.) while stealing the information.

The skimmer is designed to look exactly like the slot you put your Debit/Credit card in. It is designed to fit over top of the existing card reader.

Doesn’t the EMV Chip fix this?

For financial institutions, the move to EMV Chip technology was made to better secure your credit and debit cards and avoid exactly this. However, many places of business have yet to transfer over to the EMV Chip, even if they have a chip enabled machine. Additionally, all of the debit and credit cards with the chip still have a strip on the back that contains the same information as the chip to remain backwards compatible for retailers not currently using the new technology.

How can I tell if a machine has a skimmer attached?

Use the following methods to tell if the ATM machine has a skimmer:

  • Take a good look at the ATM machine and check for any signs of tampering. Typical spots to look at are located at the top of the ATM, near the speakers, the screen (look at all sides), the keyboard. Look for anything that looks different from the rest of the machine – anything that is discolored, a different metal or texture. Check to make sure that things are aligned correctly.
  • Push and wiggle every element on the machine that you can. If the machine has been tampered with, pushing and wiggling on the machine will help you determine that as the skimming devices are typically designed to come off easily, so that the thief can make quick work of detaching it.
  • Cover the keypad as you enter your pin. Assume that the thief has a camera on you at all times during your transaction.

Whenever possible, use ATM machines in high-traffic areas. ATM machines located inside of a building like your credit union or other high-traffic areas are less likely to be tampered with.