Withholding and Skimming

While ATMs are generally safe, there are two types of scams that can occur at ATMS, card withholding and card skimming.

Card withholding involves multiple steps and usually two thieves. First, the thieves put something in the ATM slot to make customers’ cards jam. Then when someone uses the ATM, one of the thieves may try to “help” the victim, encouraging them to keep entering their PIN in hopes that the card will be released. Another thief watches, often from a distance, and records the PIN as it’s entered. Ultimately, the victim is unable to get their card out of the ATM.

Once the victim leaves, the thieves retrieve the card from the slot, and since they already have the PIN, they are immediately able to use the card for fraudulent transactions.

Card skimming is an even more sophisticated process. Skimming relies on technology to obtain card numbers and PINs rather than the cards themselves. There are generally two parts to a skimming operation. First, the thief obtains the card number. This is frequently accomplished through a skimmer, a device fitted over the ATM’s card reader. The skimmer copies the numbers when the card is swiped. Second, the thief records the PIN. This can be done through a video camera or a device fitted over the pin pad.

The trouble with skimming is that it can be difficult to detect. Thieves have created technologies that look remarkably similar to actual ATMs.

In order to protect yourself from both types of scams:

  • Always look carefully at the card slot on an ATM before inserting your card. One thing to look for is the shape of the card slot. Because skimmers fit over the slot, they make it larger. Sometimes a skimmer will be shaped with a half circle faced out towards the consumer, while ATM slots more often have a half circle facing the machine. If you see any signs of tampering, don’t use the ATM.
  • If your card is difficult to insert, don’t force it. Go to a different ATM.
  • When entering your PIN, use your other hand as a shield. If someone else is watching, either in person or via video, you can simply block their view.
  • If your card gets stuck, contact your bank immediately to put a hold on it. Also, contact the bank that owns the ATM to notify them of the problem.

As always, be sure to monitor your account regularly for fraudulent transactions. If your card is compromised, you can minimize the damage by catching it quickly.

The information provided is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice or recommendations for any specific individual, business, or circumstance. TowneBank cannot guarantee that it is accurate, up to date, or appropriate for your situation. Financial calculators are provided for illustrative purposes only. You are encouraged to consult with a qualified attorney or financial advisor to understand how the law applies to your particular circumstances or for financial information specific to your personal or business situation.