Brian Krebs, who is the author of the site KrebsonSecurity, which reports on cybercrime and internet security, said that the thieves, who are often involved in organised crime and gangs, are growing bolder.
There are a few simple things people can do on the road (and at home) to minimise the risk of being scammed:
1. Be selective in how you pay
“I don’t use debit cards,” Krebs said. That card is a pot of gold for thieves because they can get immediate cash. While banks protect from fraud, the institution might not catch the transaction or transactions immediately.
If your account is emptied, checks could bounce, and cash may be unavailable as the bank investigates. Krebs recommends sticking with credit cards or using a mobile payment app with your phone. “The merchant never sees your credit card number,” Krebs said.
2. Shield your PIN
Your card numbers are not the only thing thieves are after. Krebs said what they really want is your PIN, which, again, is their ticket to a quick payday. Often, he said, thieves will hide a camera on the ATM to record the number you type in.
So the scammer will grab your numbers when your card is swiped and the PIN is also captured. “When you’re entering your PIN, cover the PIN pad with your hand. It’s very simple,” Krebs said.
Another alarming fact? Krebs said it is not just the ATM you have to worry about with scammers. They have also been found within card readers that unlock the doors of bank vestibules.
3. Hit cash machines on weekdays
Need cash? Get it during the week. Your chances of getting conned go up astronomically when the weekend starts. That is because the thieves know ATMs are inspected regularly during the week by the companies that manage them but not on weekends.
4. Use ATMs that are a fixture in banks
Avoid using free-standing ATMs on streets and in bars, restaurants, clubs, convenience stores and other businesses. Because the machines are so exposed it is easier for someone to get access to the computer and hard drive of the ATM and rip off financial data.
Instead, opt for ATMs that are permanent fixtures within the walls of banks. “It’s definitely safer to use the machines that are physically installed somewhere,” he said.
5. Watch your accounts
“Keep an eye on your statements,” Krebs said. “Whether it’s regular credit card fraud or online credit card fraud or skimming-related fraud, you’re not liable for fraudulent withdrawals or charges, but you are responsible for reporting them.”
Sometimes your financial institution will detect these, but not always. Krebs recommends signing up for text alerts (if your institution offers them free) so you get notified each time a transaction goes through.
6. Use common sense
If an ATM or merchant device looks wonky, do not use it. If someone’s looking over your shoulder to see your PIN, protect it.