Experts estimate that ATM and credit card skimming costs U.S banks a staggering $8 billion every year. Data also suggests that over 400,000 ATMs in the US have been tampered with and are unsafe to use.

With ATM skimmers and other types of electronic phishing on the rise, it’s important that you learn more about these threats and learn to protect yourself from them.

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What is an ATM Skimmer?

An ATM skimmer is an electronic device that is illegally fixed on ATM machines. This device is capable of scanning and recording your ATM card. An ATM skimmer usually works in tandem with a camera.

First, when you slide your card into the ATM machine, the ATM skimmer (which is fixed over the card slot) scans and stores your ATM card info. Of course, the thief also needs your PIN number to access your bank account. This is where the camera comes into play.

The camera, which could be located anywhere that gives it a clear view of the keypad, will record your PIN number, and send it to the thief.

How Do You Protect Your ATM Card from a Skimmer?

There are several precautions you can take to make sure your ATM card doesn’t get skimmed. Here are some of the most useful ones:

Don’t use an ATM machine that you don’t trust

The only foolproof way of protecting your ATM card from a skimmer is not using an ATM machine that has been compromised. This is, of course, easier said than done. ATM machines that have been tampered with are hard to spot. However, there are some signs that you can watch out for, like crooked or bent flaps, scratches near the keypad or flaps and keypads that have been taped over or stuck with adhesive.

If the ATM card reader is sticking out unusually, it’s a sure sign the machine has been tampered with. Also, keep a lookout for plastic (fake) flaps or keypads that look thicker than they should be. Some thieves use keypad scanners that go under the ATM keypad and record your PIN number as you enter it. They might even replace the keypad itself to record your PIN, so be on the lookout for that.

Try to spot cameras in locations that give a clear view of the keypad, like on the wall, in brochure racks or even in pinholes. The only way you can be sure that you won’t get scammed is to use an ATM you trust.

Don’t use ATMs located in remote areas or ATMs in places that don’t appear secure. Use ATMs that are hard to get to because they are located in a secure location or that someone is always watching over. Whenever possible, use an indoor ATM over an outdoor one.

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Cover the Keypad with your Hand while you enter your PIN

This is by no means an infallible method to protect your PIN, but it is still a worthwhile precaution. Whenever you enter your PIN, cover the keypad with your other hand. This will block most cameras from getting a clear shot of your PIN number.

Change your PIN regularly

It’s a good idea to change your PIN number every once in a while. Even if they get your card number, they won’t be able to access your bank account this way.

Sign up for Text Alerts

Some banks will send you a text message for every withdrawal transaction from your bank account. Sign up for such a service, if possible. If anybody withdraws money from your account, you will be able to notify the bank immediately.

Check Your Bank Statement

Always go over your bank statements and check if there are transactions that you don’t recognize. Most often small amounts withdrawn from your account go unnoticed unless you pay attention and keep a lookout for any suspicious activity on your account.

Be Wary of ATMs in Secluded or Crowded Areas

ATMs that are located in dimly lit or isolated places are liable to be targeted by thieves. They also tend to target tourists, so avoid using ATMs while you’re traveling – get the cash beforehand. If you need any ATM attached to your bank can certainly be a good bet.

In conclusion, if you take the basic precautions, your hard-earned money will remain safe in your bank account. If, for any reason, you think your ATM card has been compromised, contact your bank immediately and get your ATM card barred.

What precautions do you take to safeguard yourself from such phishing attacks? Share with us in the comments below.