What is ATM skimming?

ATM skimming is a type of financial scam in which “skimmers” are deployed at cash withdrawal terminals to obtain credit or debit card information. ATM skimmers are fitted to ATM card readers in order to steal payment card information. They are made to resemble an actual component of the ATM machine.

In order to capture user PIN codes, ATM skimmers may also have hidden cameras installed. Fraudsters steal personal information from ATMs in order to make money. The information gathered by ATM skimmers, including card numbers, CVV codes, expiration dates, and PINs, is transmitted to criminals’ remote equipment, where it may be used for identity theft or other crimes. On the dark web, stolen data may potentially be for sale.

Using ATMs that have been tampered with by skimming devices puts your financial security at considerable risk and could give thieves access to conduct bogus online purchases or even spoof (clone) your card. Because of this, it’s crucial to pay attention to your surroundings and confirm the security of any ATMs you use.

Card skimming methods

There are various kinds of card skimming devices in use, all of which are virtually undetectable to the untrained eye and intended for various types of ATM fraud.

Here are a few of the most popular techniques for card skimming:

  • Fake credit card readers placed over the card slot to record data from the magnetic stripe.
  • ATM keypad overlays to capture button presses and PIN codes.
  • Miniature hidden cameras to record user activity and card details.
  • Shimmer devices placed within the ATM card reader to swipe data from the card’s chip.

What does skimming device look like?

Since all skimming devices are made to resemble standard components of an ATM terminal, it can be challenging to detect any irregularities. However, you may spot skimming equipment by looking at images of credit card skimming devices and being familiar with the different skimming techniques.

Credit card skimmer

A credit card skimmer device looks like a typical ATM card reader — at least at first glance. Upon closer inspection, the card reader may look obviously mounted or bulkier than usual.

Hidden cameras

The cameras used in ATM skimming schemes are extremely small, and usually disguised to blend in with other parts of the machine. But cameras may give off a strange light or be hidden behind an unusual plastic attachment.

Keypad overlays

Keypad overlays look a lot like regular ATM keypads, but they may stick out from the ATMs surface or be made from a different material than the rest of the machine.


Shimmers are paper-thin devices inserted into ATM card readers. ATM shimmers record the data on the customer’s card chip while the ATM functions normally, which makes them a particularly difficult type of skimming equipment to detect, since they are hidden within the machine itself.

How can you detect if an ATM has a skimmer?

If the keypad or card reader of an ATM exhibits modest but unexpected irregularities, the machine has likely been tampered with. AMT skimmers can be identified by their telltale characteristics, such as an excessively bulky card reader, a PIN pad that reacts oddly to touch, or any peculiar attachments attached to other components of the device.

The card reader and keypad, as well as every other component of an ATM, should be firmly fastened in place without any swaying or moving parts. ATMs are also built with few external parts; therefore, if you notice any extraneous items, such as a plastic bar on the top of the ATM, they might be hiding concealed cameras.

If anything looks off at all, inspect the ATM more closely before using it.


Ways to check for skimmers

You should always check whether an ATM has been fitted with a skimmer before inserting your card or entering your PIN code. Here’s what to look out for when checking for fake ATM card readers:

  • Traces of glue or other substances around fixtures (the card reader, keypad, etc.)
  • Loose-fitting or misaligned fixtures
  • Unusual plastic fittings
  • Bulkiness on the card reader or keypad
  • Unusual color-coding on the keypad or keys in an unusual order

Even if everything seems in order, try the following to double-check that the ATM has not been tampered with by a scammer:

  • Wiggle the card reader slot and try to shift the keypad: ATM skimmers are not firmly fixed in place, so they usually will move when messed with.
  • Press some keys on the keypad: If the buttons feel sticky, spongy, or too stiff, it may be a false keypad.

Can bank ATMs have skimmers?

Any ATM, even those owned by banks, may be equipped with unauthorized scanners. But some locations are more vulnerable than others, making street-side ATMs with open access particularly plausible targets for skimmers. No matter how secure an ATM may seem, keep a keen eye out for warning signs to spot and avoid ATM scams.

How to protect against skimming

It’s getting simpler to avoid ATMs entirely and stop ATM skimming as we transition to a society that uses less cash. By avoiding skimming devices used by criminals, mobile payment methods like Google Pay or Apple Pay not only help prevent ATM identity theft but also add an extra layer of security between you and the merchant.

Similar to how avoiding trips to the ATM by paying with a card rather than cash lowers the chance of debit card skimming. Additionally, using a credit card as opposed to a debit card for payments allows you to take advantage of better transaction protection.

If you must use an ATM, there are steps you can take to assist protect your private information and fend against identity theft. Bank ATMs inside of banks are substantially more secure than those outside, especially those on quiet backstreets with little to no foot traffic, even if no ATM is completely safe against skimmers being planted by criminals.

In order to protect the keypad from any hidden cameras, it’s also a good idea to always cover the keypad with one hand while entering your PIN. The most crucial rule to keep in mind is to never use an ATM if there are any signs of manipulation or if there is anything else suspicious about it. Report the machine instead, then go find another one.

What if I discover a card reader skimmer?

Inform the store or bank branch right away if you discover a skimmer on an ATM so that it may be closed down right away and that no more people fall for the con. Additionally, any proof of unlawful credit card scanners should be reported to the authorities so they can look into it and take appropriate action against anyone responsible.

What if I’ve been skimmed?

Checking your bank account regularly will help you detect ATM fraud before too much damage is done. If you find unusual activity such as unknown direct debits, or a fraudulent ATM withdrawal, contact your bank right away so that they can block the skimmed card and stop the fraudster from taking any more of your money.

As with other forms of financial fraud, such as Apple ID phishing scams, you should report the identity theft to the police, and take steps to secure your identity and keep your financial and personal information safe.

Keep all of your private information secure.

Your information is open to being intercepted, collected, and used fraudulently in both online and offline schemes. That is why comprehensive cybersecurity is so crucial. In order to help you respond quickly in the event that your personal information is ever leaked, Avast One is an all-in-one online security solution that includes award-winning anti-malware protection, a VPN for anonymous browsing, and automatic data-breach monitoring.

Additionally, Avast One includes a firewall, stops phishing websites and links, guards against camera hijacking, and even makes sure your devices are functioning at their best. Get total internet security right now for nothing.


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