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Seven things you can do to protect against ATM skimming

Young female using ATM

Debit cards make it easy to access your money. Unfortunately, criminals agree and often try to steal debit card information using a method called “skimming.”

Skimming uses a device—the “skimmer”—to capture card data at an ATM. Common locations for skimmers include gas stations and convenience store ATMs, although credit union and bank ATMs are also subject to skimming attacks.

Criminals need two things to make ATM skimming work: the data from your card’s magnetic strip and your PIN. To capture your data, the skimming device is usually placed where you insert your card. To get your PIN, a tiny camera is hidden nearby, often cleverly concealed to look like part of the ATM.

Here are seven things you can do to protect yourself from skimming.

Before you go out:

  1. Make sure your credit union has your current contact information.
  2. Set up online banking and the mobile banking app. Once this is done it will be easier for you to check your account for fraudulent transactions if you ever suspect you may have fallen victim to skimming.
  3. Check your account often and set up transaction or balance alerts. Alerts can be set up in online and mobile banking. Purchase alerts can be set up for your Sound Credit Union debit and credit cards through Visa.
  4. Let us know before you leave town. Set up travel alerts on your account to let us know when and where you’re going so we know it’s you using your card from the new location.

While you are out:

  1. Lights, camera, action! If it’s not possible to use an ATM you already know, choose well-lit ATMs in areas with security cameras and lots of foot traffic—they are less likely to be skimmed. At the gas station, use the gas pumps closest to the store entrance.
  2. Check the machine.
    • Does it look different since the last time you used it? Grab the card reader and give it a good tug. Push and pull on the plastic around the PIN pad. If anything wiggles, let the owner know and use another machine.If something falls off in your hand, call 911 and give it to the police.
    • Does the card slide in smoothly? If there is a device in the slot your card may feel different when inserted in the machine. If it doesn’t feel right, end the transaction—without conducting your business—and try a different ATM.
  3. Protect your PIN. Cover your hand as you enter your PIN. To prevent thieves from getting your PIN, use the credit card option, when possible.

Even when you’ve done everything right, ATM fraud can still happen. When in doubt, check your account! If you see unauthorized transactions, alert your credit union immediately to limit your liability.

What can I do if I suspect I’m a victim of card skimming?

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