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How to Protect Yourself from ATM Skimming

According to a study by the Federal Reserve, the number of debit card payments is increasing more than any other payment type. Even with its increased use, debit cards remain one of the safest financial instruments you can use. The Federal Reserve study also reports that among cards, PIN debit card transactions (including both purchases and ATM withdrawals) have the lowest estimated fraud rate by both number and value*.

However, that doesn’t mean your PIN debit card is completely immune to fraud. ATM skimming is one creative way criminals can take advantage of your debit card. Skimming is where criminals install devices, such as a camera or card reader, on ATMs or retailers’ point-of-sales machines to “skim” (or collect) information from your card, such as your card number and/or PIN, to use fraudulently.

Banks help protect consumers
Banks take a number of preventative measures to help protect consumers from ATM skimming and other types of fraud, including:

• Installing surveillance cameras and increased lighting at ATMs
• Monitoring accounts for indications of suspicious activity
• Blocking and re-issuing cards for account holders who may be affected by fraud

In case fraud still occurs, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act provides protection against unauthorized fraud losses.  Unauthorized transactions are typically refunded back to the consumer by your bank if you notify the bank as soon as you become aware of the unauthorized transaction(s).

You also can help protect yourself

As a consumer, there are also a number of actions you can take to help protect yourself, such as:

• Be aware of your surroundings and of other people who may be near when using an ATM. Shield the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN. Also, be cautious of anyone who offers to “help” you, especially if an ATM “eats” your card. They may be trying to steal your card number and PIN.
• Look for anything unusual that might indicate tampering with the ATM. For instance, if the ATM has a discolored card reader or unresponsive keypad – do not use the machine and report it to the bank. Never force your card into a card slot.
• Keep copies of your receipts to check against your statements regularly. Check your balance as soon as possible if you suspect your card may have been compromised. Report any unusual activity immediately by calling the toll-free number on the back of your card or contacting your bank.

*2013 Federal Reserve Payments Study (most recent data available)


These tips are provided by the American Bankers Association and Iowa Bankers Association.


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