Latest ATM scam devices are virtually undetectable: Internet Scambusters #613
From the simplest distraction tricks to the most sophisticated technology, ATM scams can turn up wherever there's a machine stuffed with cash and a customer trying to withdraw it.
And because new card security technology already prevalent in Europe is slow to catch on in the U.S., things are about to get tougher stateside, as we explain in this week's issue.
We also have a new advance payment scam alert specially targeting beauty product consultants. You might be able to do one a favor by letting them know.
Now, here we go...
New Wave of ATM Scams Heads for U.S.
A new wave of ATM scams is on its way to the U.S. from Europe, while our own home-grown criminals also have a new set of cash-machine tricks up their sleeves.
As we've previously reported in ATM Theft: 8 Tips to Protect Yourself From the 5 Most Common ATM Scams, by far the most common scam is the use of skimming devices, which are placed over ATM card slots.
These can read data on the card's magnetic stripe, while a carefully concealed camera records the user's Personal Identification Number (PIN).
The trouble (from the crooks' point of view) is that until now the devices were fairly easy to spot, at least to the trained eye.
But in the newest versions, on their way here from across the Atlantic, the latest skimming devices are virtually undetectable.
Furthermore, because the U.S. is lagging behind in adoption of so-called chip-and-PIN (sometimes referred to as EMV) cards, which are in widespread use in Europe, American ATMs are now a more attractive target.
Renowned online security blogger Brian Krebs reports: "While most card skimmers are made to sit directly on top of the existing card slot, these newer mini-skimmers fit snugly inside the card reader throat, obscuring most of the device."
He says the European ATM Security Team (EAST) has also identified skimmers that use translucent plastic, which is virtually invisible.
Krebs quotes an EAST report as saying: "In countries where the ATM EMV rollout has been completed, most losses have migrated away from Europe and are mainly seen in the USA, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America."
Action: Using an ATM inside a banking hall reduces (but doesn't eliminate) the risk of encountering a compromised machine.
If you don't spot that a machine has been tampered with, there's not much you can do about the device reading your card data.
However, you can still protect your PIN by covering the keypad with your hand as you type in the number.
Crooks have been known to place an overlay on the keyboard that can read the numbers, but these are more easily identifiable, so scammers still tend to rely on hidden cameras.
Even so, if the ATM also has a touch screen, you might be better using that, but again still covering the touch keyboard with your hand or wallet.
Here are some other recent ATM scams to be on the lookout for:
Door Skimmer Scam
Sometimes, victims may encounter a skimmer even before they reach the ATM.
Many banks locate their machines inside a vestibule that's accessible outside normal banking hours by swiping a card through a reader on the outside of the entrance door.
Crooks may place a skimmer over the reader so that it collects card data as well as opening the door.
However, as before, the crook still needs your PIN, so ensure you cover the keypad and that no one is looking over your shoulder as you enter the number.
Dropped Fiver Scam
Another new ATM trick is the dropped fiver scam.
Working with an accomplice, the scammer approaches a victim just as the ATM is about to spit out their cash.
He's holding a $5 bill that he says the victim just dropped.
While the victim is distracted, the accomplice grabs the cash and the pair runs off.
Action: Don't allow yourself to be distracted until you have your money -- and your card -- safely in your hands.
Bogus Card Theft Scam
This trick is similar to one we reported a couple of weeks ago, in which students are offered cash to part with card details; crooks tell them they can then report that the card's been stolen so they won't have to cover anything the criminals have taken out.
In the ATM version, victims are persuaded to hand over their card to a crook actually at the machine. He offers to split the cash he withdraws with the victim.
Again, the victim is supposed to report the theft so that the full "stolen" amount is re-credited to his account.
Action: This scam is being used by organized crime gang members in Chicago.
It's obviously illegal to participate in it. But if you feel threatened and forced to comply, return any money you get to the bank as you report the crime.
Alert of the Week
Are you a Mary Kay consultant or do you know one? If so, beware!
Scammers are contacting agents via the company website, placing orders and then sending a fake check in advance for an inflated amount.
Then they re-contact the consultant saying the check was for the wrong amount and ask for the surplus to be wired back to them.
Old scam -- new look.
If you know a consultant, please pass this on to them.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.