Skip to main content

ATM Skimming Safety Tips

Stealing debit card information using "skimmers" at gas pumps and ATMs is an old problem.

But thieves are becoming more sophisticated at hiding the devices and getting around some of the fixes merchants have put in their way. Below are some additional ATM safety tips to get in mind.

Look for signs of tampering

Before using an ATM or point-of-sale terminal, try wiggling the keypad or card slot, says the police department in Portland, Ore. If anything seems loose, don't use the device. Also look for keypads that appear raised or have an unusual color, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs recommends. A thief could have placed an overlay on the keypad to record the personal identification number you punch in. Some gas pumps have security tape that forms a seal around the card reader. If the seal is broken, that could be a sign that the reader has been compromised.

Protect your PIN

Place your hand over the keypad when entering your personal identification number in case thieves have installed a pinhole camera to record it, the Better Business Bureau recommends.

Use a chip card

Credit and other debit cards with chips offer better protection that those only with magnetic stripes. But that's only the case if you insert just the chip portion of your card into a reader. If you need to insert your entire card, a skimmer may steal the data from the magnetic stripe.

Check your transactions

Carefully examine your bank account activity online to see whether funds have been withdrawn that you didn't authorize, FICO says. You can also set up an alert so that you're notified when funds are withdrawn.

Inspect before using

Beware of ATMs whose card slots are a different color than the rest of the machine; have unusual equipment on the slot, keypad or sides, or overhead (which could hide a camera); or don't accept your card smoothly. If the slot is not securely attached, walk away. Newer ATMs have a flashing or steady light at the card slot. If it's obscured, suspect tampering.

Hide it

When entering a PIN, cover your hand as your press the numbers to protect personal information.

Keep close tabs on all payment cards

As with credit cards, most banks offer real-time alerts via text message or email on debt card transactions.

Create a separate account

Open a smaller account, separate from your primary, checking account, and use it exclusively for debit card transactions. If the account is skimmed, the lower balance would limit your losses.


Rev. 11.21