How to spot ATM card reader "skimmers" - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL


How to spot ATM card reader "skimmers"

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    ATM 'skimmers' steal your card number, PIN

    A click of the mouse. A tearing of an envelope. A swipe at an ATM. It seems anything we do these days could open us up to crooks. Almost everyone has a debit card and has used an ATM. However, you mayMore >>
    A click of the mouse. A tearing of an envelope. A swipe at an ATM. It seems anything we do these days could open us up to crooks. Skimmers aren't a new way to steal money from people, but they may be the sneakiest, and the hardest to spot.More >>

Just when we thought the coast was clear around the credit card readers of our banks and gas stations, security experts said card "skimmers" are making a comeback.

"Skimming" is when identity thieves install their own skimmers inside or around an ATM's card-reader. You swipe your card and the skimmer records your card number.

Bingo! The thief has your card information.

A few years ago, the good guys tried to beat skimming scams by designing and installing ATM or gas pump card-readers that extend out instead of laying flat.  

But thieves soon learned how to hijack those, too.

Robert Siciliano, CEO of (, told consumer resource Bottom Line Personal magazine before consumers use an ATM with an extended card-reader, they should follow these safety measures:


  • THE "YANK & TWIST." Give the reader a gentle yank and twist. If it's loose, it may be a fake extender to disguise a thief's skimmer. While you're at it, jiggle the keypad panel. Thieves can sabotage that, too.
  • COLOR MATCHES. Make sure the color of the plastic around the card-reader matches the color of the plastic around the rest of the machine.
  • HIDDEN CAMERAS. Both Siciliano and Agent Rick Harlow, special agent-in-charge of the Secret Service's Memphis office, said thieves install hidden cameras to record customers punching in their PIN numbers. The bad guys typically hide them in a bank brochure holder or inside a fake speaker mounted on the machine. Inspect those spots, and cover your hand while you punch your PIN.
  • SMOOTH = SAFE. If your card slides smoothly, you're in the clear. If it jams or rides roughly, there just might be a skimmer.


To make sure you haven't already been skimmed, keep up with your account's bank statements. If the math is fuzzy or some of the withdrawals are mysterious, alert your bank immediately.

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