ATM Alert! New Skimmer Being Used by Thieves

by Debra N. Diener J.D. CIPP G

Credit card background, shallow DOF

We’ve heard and read about the ways thieves turn ATMs into their personal money machines.  We try to remember how to avoid having our private financial information and money stolen.  But we’re busy and that’s part of the usefulness of ATMs — we can get quick access to our accounts and money.

And, of course, thieves know that we’re busy and they count on that.  So when I read Brian Krebs article about the newest ATM scam, I thought it was worth reminding myself, and all of us, about these ATM scams and the steps we can take to avoid becoming victims.

Thieves count on us being too busy to remember to follow these tips:

  • To cover the keyboard when typing in our PIN number.
  • To sweep our hands over the area to see if someone’s put down some kind of plastic that can capture our PIN number as we type it in.
  • To look around to see if someone’s left an empty can or cigarette box near the machine that can hold a tiny camera to capture our PIN number as we type it in.

And yes, sometimes we’re both too busy, and too polite, to ask the person standing too close behind us to back away.

So what’s the latest scam?  Mr.Krebs reported about a new “all in one” skimmer that thieves are using.  This is a very sophisticated device that thieves slip right into the card slot as an overlay.  Our card will go right in so there’s no physical resistance that might give us a hint that something’s wrong with the machine.

What’s the only clue that might alert us?  As Mr. Krebs reports, there’s a tiny, tiny pinhole that houses the camera that will capture the PIN number as it’s entered.

There are excellent photos of this “all in one” skimmer on Mr. Krebs’ blog and you’ll want to see them for yourself.  It was an eye opener for me to see just how sophisticated this device is — and to realize, again, that thieves keep coming up with technology that’s more sophisticated and harder to detect.

I’ll hope I can remember to look for this telltale tiny clue at the ATMs I use.  All we can do is try and be as vigilant as possible to protect our private financial information.  We can also be pro-active and ask our banks to make sure that they sweep their ATM machines for these, and other types, of skimmer devices.


Ms. Diener is now an independent consultant on privacy, identity management, information protection and risk management. She served in senior managerial, legal, policy and legislative positions in all three branches of the Federal government. In addition to her privacy expertise, Ms. Diener played a lead role on such important domestic and international issues as criminal justice/law enforcement and financial services. She speaks frequently at industry and governmental conferences and meetings.