Take charge of your safety at the ATM

ATM-related crimes can happen to anyone. As thieves use increasingly sophisticated methods to steal personal information, it’s becoming more difficult to visually detect when a skimmer has been attached to an ATM. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop using the machines. There are steps you can take to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of ATM fraud, including one action you should take whenever you enter your PIN – even at the store.

Skimmers explained

Skimmers are unauthorized card readers attached to the ATM by criminals. There are two kinds of skimmers:

  • Traditional skimmers – Made to be placed over the top of the cash machine’s acceptance slot, usually secured with glue or double sided tape.
  • Insert skimmers – Thin data-theft tools made to be completely hidden inside the ATM’s card acceptance slot.

Both skimmers also need a way to capture your PIN. There are two methods thieves employ to steal that information:

  • Hidden camera – A tiny camera positioned to capture information as you enter your PIN. This is the method used on most ATM skimmers today.
  • Key pad overlay – A flexible piece of circuit-embedded plastic that looks like the keypad and fits perfectly over the ATM’s legitimate PIN pad. These are used less frequently, but you should be aware of the possibility of one being attached to the ATM you’re using.

Stay safe

Financial institutions, including Oregon State Credit Union, are working hard to stay ahead of ATM thieves. But with new technology coming out all the time, it’s a good idea for consumers to know what steps they can take to ensure their information remains safe. The following are some tips to help you detect ATM skimmers before you become a victim.

  • Whenever you enter your PIN, cover the keypad with your hand. If you do nothing else, this one step can protect you from camera-based methods of stealing your PIN. Do this at ATMs, retail stores or any place where you enter your PIN.
  • Use the same ATM for most of your transactions. Become familiar with it, and be able to identify changes to the machine.
  • Before you use an ATM, check for obvious signs of tampering at the top of the machine, near the speakers, the side of the screen, the card reader itself and the keyboard.
  • ATMs are solidly constructed and generally don’t have any jiggling or loose parts. Make sure the keyboard is securely attached and doesn’t feel suspiciously thick.
  • Feel for sticky residue that might be adhesive used by criminals to attach a device. Also look for scratches, damaged or crooked pieces, and loose or extra attachments on the card slot.
  • On the keypad, look for keys that are difficult to push down which may indicate a false keypad attached on top of the real keypad. If the keyboard you’re using doesn’t feel right, cancel your transaction and notify the credit union or local authorities.
  • If something looks different, such as a different color or material, graphics that aren’t aligned correctly or anything else that doesn’t look right, don’t use that ATM.
  • Skimmers read the magnetic stripe as the card is inserted, so give the card a bit of a wiggle as you put it in. The skimmer needs the stripe to go in a single motion, because if it isn’t straight in, it can’t read the data correctly.
  • Even before you go to the ATM, you can add text alerts to your account. With text alerts you set withdrawal limits, and if someone withdraws an amount of cash from your account which exceeds your predetermined limit, the text alert will notify you.

Learn more about setting text alerts.

Just remember: If something doesn’t feel right about an ATM or a credit card reader, don’t use it. If you’ve already started your transaction, cancel it. If you notice a discrepancy, call us at 800-732-0173 to report it.

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