An alarming new report found there was a 70% increase in the number of debit cards compromised at ATMs and at card readers used by merchants in 2016, according to FICO Card Alert Service.
For years, Clark has warned about thieves using skimmers at ATMs to steal your money.
Skimmers are getting more sophisticated
Police departments nationwide are having a difficult time keeping up with the bad guys because they’re constantly using new technology to improve skimming devices.
One of the latest weapons in their arsenal is the deep-insert skimmer, a tiny device that goes inside ATM card slots.
According to TransUnion, they’re different from other types of skimmers because they’re placed in a way that they’re usually not visible to the person using the ATM.
What exactly is a skimmer?
If you’re not familiar, a skimmer records data stored on the magnetic stripe of payment cards, which is transmitted to thieves to make duplicate cards.
Thieves may also use tiny cameras to capture your PIN when you enter it on the keypad.
“As the last few years have proven, skimming technology and knowhow have improved and are more accessible to the general population, so we will continue to see increases in compromises and the speed at which they occur,” said TJ Horan, vice president of fraud solutions at FICO.
How to protect yourself
While it’s difficult to guarantee that you never fall victim to an ATM or other card skimming scam, there are ways to minimize your risks, as well as minimize the damage if does happen to you.
First, it’s important to know that you have fewer consumer protections with debit cards. For example, let’s say you notice fraudulent activity on your credit card. You have 60 days to report it and dispute the charge with your credit card company. But if you used a debit card, you have only two days to report it!
On top of that, hotels, gas stations, rental car companies and other companies will put a hold on your checking account if you use a debit card. If you have any checks floating around that someone tries to cash — or other payments scheduled to go through from the same account — that could cause your account to be overdrawn and result in big fees. Plus, the company that runs your debit card may even do a hard inquiry on your credit without you knowing, which will lower your credit score!
So with all that in mind, here are some ways to protect yourself:
”¢ Grab the plastic slot on an ATM where you insert your card and shake it to make sure that it doesn’t come loose. If it’s moving up and down in your hand, there may be a skimmer attached.
”¢ Use your free hand to cover your other hand as you punch in your secret code: Remember, you may be on a crook’s candid camera or someone may be viewing you remotely with binoculars.
”¢ Consider setting daily ATM limit: If you don’t carry huge money in your checking account, you might consider instituting a daily limit on ATM withdrawals. Check with your bank or credit union for more details.
”¢ Only use bank-affiliated ATMs: According to FICO, 60% of all skimming incidents occurred at non-bank ATMs — so try to avoid independent ATMs that aren’t associated with a particular bank — like those at gas stations and other random locations.
”¢ Never use a debit card at a gas station pump: If you have to use a debit card, go inside to pay.
”¢ Avoid using a debit card at other places that are popular for scammers: grocery stores, online shopping. Here are more places to never used a debit card.
”¢ If you can ditch your debit card for a credit card, do it: Credit cards come with a lot more protections than debit cards.
”¢ Check your bank statements daily: If your account is compromised, you may be able to catch it quickly and avoid more damage if you keep up with your accounts regularly.
Even though Clark doesn’t like debit cards, he still has one in his wallet! Why? To pull money out of an ATM. He says it’s the only time he ever uses it.
You may also be able to request an ATM-only card from your bank to use for withdrawals.