ATM skimming: protect yourself from the scammers

ATM skimming scammers cost Australians close to $40 million a year.

A person inserts their card into an ATM machine

ATM skimming scammers cost Australians close to $40 million a year, do you know how to protect yourself from ATM skimming? 

What is ATM skimming?
ATM skimming is when somebody illegally duplicates your credit or debit card and then withdraws funds from it, without your permission. 

How does a card get skimmed?
To do this, scammers must first get their hands on your card and put it into a special device, which saves the information from the magnetic strip on the back of your card. The devices that capture this information vary, the most common kind attaches over the slot where you insert your card into an ATM. They can also look just like handheld EFTPOS machines, which you would use in stores. The next step involves finding out your PIN, which is sometimes done with small pinhole cameras which are installed in the fraudulent devices and videotape you pressing buttons on the keypad. Finally, the scammer manufactures an exact duplicate of your card and then uses it as if it belonged to them, withdrawing funds freely. 

What do they look like? 
ATM skimmers have evolved over the years, and scarily enough they can look like like anything. This image from security news site Krebs on Security shows just one example of what they can look like. Notice that the only noticeable difference is the small piece of plastic circled in the images. 

What can you do to protect yourself?
To protect yourself from skimming, the most important precaution you must take is to cover the keypad when you enter your PIN, even if you are at an isolated machine. Other warning signs strongly recommended to be on the look out for by the police and/or Australian banks include:

  • Keeping an eye out for any signs of tampering with machines.
  • A shop assistant taking your card out of your sight when they take it to make a purchase.
  • A shop assistant swiping your card into multiple machines.
  • Any suspicious or unauthorized transactions appearing on your bank statements.

If you always use the same ATM, keep an eye out for anything different, if anything looks unusual you should contact your bank as soon as possible. 

If you believe you are a victim of ATM skimming, contact your bank immediately and if necessary, don’t hesitate to contact the police.

Read the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s page on ATM skimming here and view the ATM Card Skimming & PIN Capturing Customer Awareness Guide here



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    24th Sep 2017
    And also protect yourself from the websites like It's the way of stealing money too
    Young Simmo
    24th Sep 2017
    We,(77 year old pensioners) don't have any problems for a very simple reason.
    A: We use Net-bank for all our transactions.
    B: We use Visa for everything we buy.
    C: If we need cash I always go to the bank counter inside.
    D: If buying a fridge or car etc, we just top up our $500.00 limit Visor, with 5 or 10 thousand bucks to do the job. We got our $500 visa when we bought our first computer in 2000 and have never had any drama.
    25th Sep 2017
    We get our cash when we go to the supermarket. Aldi, woolies or Coles all have cash out facilities. We use PayPal or similar for larger transactions. No need for ATMs.
    6th Feb 2019
    I have never used an ATM and don't intend to -- I would sooner go to the bank and withdraw or use a supermarket for debit card OR use my C/C which I do most times and always have the balance paid b4 the due date