About Us | Contact Us
View Cart

Taking a Trip to the ATM: Beware of ‘Skimmers’

By Vigilize | Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - Leave a Comment

Skimming typically involves the use of a hidden cameras (top) to record customers’ PINs, and phony keypads (right) placed over real keypads to record keystrokes.

Last fall, two brothers from Bulgaria were charged in U.S. federal court in New York with using stolen bank account information to defraud two banks of more than $1 million.

Their scheme involved installing surreptitious surveillance equipment on New York City ATMs that allowed them to record customers’ account information and PINs, create their own bank cards, and steal from customer accounts.

What these two did is called “ATM skimming”—basically placing an electronic device on an ATM that scoops information from a bank card’s magnetic strip whenever a customer uses the machine. ATM skimming is a growing criminal activity that some experts believe costs U.S. banks hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

How Skimming Works
The devices planted on ATMs are usually undetectable by users—the makers of this equipment have become very adept at creating them, often from plastic or plaster, so that they blend right into the ATM’s façade. The specific device used is often a realistic-looking card reader placed over the factory-installed card reader. Customers insert their ATM card into the phony reader, and their account info is swiped and stored on a small attached laptop or cell phone or sent wirelessly to the criminals waiting nearby.

In addition, skimming typically involves the use of a hidden camera, installed on or near an ATM, to record customers’ entry of their PINs into the ATM’s keypad. We have also seen instances where, instead of a hidden camera, criminals attach a phony keypad on top of the real keypad … which records every keystroke as customers punch in their PINs.

Skimming devices are installed for short periods of time—usually just a few hours—so they’re often attached to an ATM by nothing more than double-sided tape. They are then removed by the criminals, who download the stolen account information and encode it onto blank cards. The cards are used to make withdrawals from victims’ accounts at other ATMs.

Skimming Investigations
Because of its financial jurisdiction, a large number of ATM skimming cases are investigated by the U.S. Secret Service. But through FBI investigative experience, we have learned that ATM skimming is a favorite activity of Eurasian crime groups, so we sometimes investigate skimming—often partnering with the Secret Service—as part of larger organized crime cases.

Some recent case examples:

  • In Miami, four Romanians were charged with fraud and identity theft after they made and placed skimming devices on ATMs throughout four Florida counties … all four men eventually pled guilty.
  • In Atlanta, two Romanians were charged and pled guilty to being part of a criminal crew that stole account information from nearly 400 bank customers through the use of skimming equipment they installed on ATMs in the Atlanta metro area.
  • In Chicago, a Serbian national was arrested—and eventually pled guilty—for attempting to purchase an ATM skimming device, hoping to steal information from ATM users and loot their bank accounts.
  • In New York, a Bulgarian national referenced at the top of this story was sentenced yesterday to 21 months in prison for his role in a scheme that used sophisticated skimming devices on ATMs to steal over $1.8 million from at least 1,400 customer accounts at New York City area banks.

How to Avoid Being Skimmed
There are things you can do to avoid being skimmed.

  • Inspect the ATM, gas pump, or credit card reader before using it…be suspicious if you see anything loose, crooked, or damaged, or if you notice scratches or adhesive/tape residue.
  • When entering your PIN, block the keypad with your other hand to prevent possible hidden cameras from recording your number.
  • If possible, use an ATM at an inside location (less access for criminals to install skimmers).
  • Be careful of ATMs in tourist areas…they are a popular target of skimmers.
  • If your card isn’t returned after the transaction or after hitting “cancel,” immediately contact the financial institution that issued the card.

One Last Note: ATMs aren’t the only target of skimmers—we’ve also seen it at gas pumps and other point-of-sale locations where customers swipe their cards and enter their PIN.


Original Article from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


same_strip_012513

Posted in Infotex News

Latest News
    Another awareness poster for YOUR customers (and users).  Now that we have our own employees aware, maybe it’s time to start posting content for our customers! Download the large versions here: Awareness Poster (Portrait) Awareness Poster (Landscape)   You are welcome to print out and distribute this around your office. Interested in one of ours […]
    Millions of phishing emails will get through automated defenses this year, are your employees ready? An article review. With cybersecurity threats such as cryptocurrency miners and ransomware seeming to dominate the news, it can be easy to forget about older threats such as phishing…but a recent report from cybersecurity firm Tessian reminds us that criminals […]
    The FFIEC’s latest guidance: The Architecture, Infrastructure, and Operations, has brought many changes to exactly how a small financial institution may look at their Technology Planning for 2022. Included in that will be the opportunity to write your first Architecture Plan and we intend to show you what may be involved in that! Have any […]
    While we’re not a news service, we often use current events to comment on trends and our services. This blog is intended to get people thinking about topics and trends in Technology Risk Management, through our article reviews, as well as through original blog articles about current events and our MSSP services (such as our […]
    Following the contribution, Have I Been Pwned will host more than 800 million compromised credentials… An article review. Have any of your login credentials been revealed in a breach?  If you’re unsure about that, Have I Been Pwned (HIBP) can help you out by letting you check against over 600 million compromised credentials…and with the […]
    infotex and Log4j We are keeping our Clients’ safety in mind. To all infotex managed security service Clients: On Friday December 10th, infotex became aware of a zero-day vulnerability in the Apache Log4j library that allows unauthenticated remote code execution. We began incident response and took steps to proactively disable potentially vulnerable applications until we […]
    Another awareness poster for YOUR customers (and users).  Now that we have our own employees aware, maybe it’s time to start posting content for our customers! Download the large versions here: Awareness Poster (Portrait) Awareness Poster (Landscape)   You are welcome to print out and distribute this around your office. Interested in one of ours […]
    Trending: Awareness Posters went “Back to Basics” Here are the top seven posters as of the last twelve months! As always, our Awareness Posters were a hit in 2021! So we decided to run some reports to see what our most popular posters were since November 2020. As everybody loves top ten lists and contests, […]
    Dan is joined by a Panel to discuss the FFIEC’s New AIO Guidance and how it may impact Technology Planning in the future.