Advent tip #19: Grab hold and give it a wiggle!

The suggestion to “grab hold and give it a wiggle” may not sound like useful security advice.

But if you’re using an ATM to withdraw money then “wiggling” can be a good idea.

That’s because a quick scrutiny of the ATM and its components (e.g. the card slot, the keypad, the moulded surrounds) can help you spot things that are iffy, such as skimming devices.

That’s where crooks glue fake add-on parts onto or around the ATM in the hope of covertly reading in both your card data and your PIN.

Typical skimming components include:

  • A fake card slot stuck over the real one, so your card is read twice when you insert it – first by the crooks, and then by the bank.
  • A fake keypad layered over the real one, so your PIN registers both on the crooks’ keyboard and on the bank’s.
  • A hidden camera and transmitting device, such as a modified mobile phone, that takes a video of your PIN as you enter it.

With a copy of your card data and your PIN, the crooks may be able to clone your card and send other gang members around town with fake cards to make phantom withdrawals.

If you see something, say something!

Inform both the bank and the police, which not only protects you but also protects the next guy, too.

Here’s a fun video from the Queensland Police Service in Australia that shows you how cash machine skimming works:

(No video? Watch on YouTube. No audio? Click on the [CC] icon for subtitles.)

A map from the US Attorney’s Office showing the speed at which cloned ATM cards are used in mass withdrawals:

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