Skimming is the theft of credit and debit card information while the card is being used in a legitimate transaction, like at a gas station or ATM. Authorities are seeing an increasing number of skimming devices being placed on ATMs and fuel dispensers in various locations throughout New England.

Skimmers are attached to the outside of the machine over the card reader. Sometimes these skimmers are very thin and fit invisibly inside the card reader slot. When you put your card into the machine, a component on the skimming device is able to read the data from the magnetic stripe on your card as you process your transaction. Skimming devices are often coupled with a hidden camera that records the entry of your PIN information in addition to your card number.

So, as a consumer, how can you protect yourself? With so many new kinds of skimming fraud, it is essential for you to be alert to anything suspicious when you approach an ATM (as well as gas pumps and other merchant terminals). Here are some things to look for:

  • Avoid using ATMs in remote locations. Thieves are trying to avoid getting caught. Stand-alone machines in darker locations can be an ideal target if a thief thinks no one is looking.
  • If something seems out of place - looks unusually bulky or poorly affixed to the machine - it could be a skimming device.
  • Jiggle the card reader to make sure it doesn’t move around.
  • Check for anything that seems to have been placed over the top of the keypad; something that moves, seems unusual, or does not match the ATM. Some criminals use keypad overlays to record keystrokes instead of cameras to capture PINs.
  • Check for hidden cameras on or around the machine. And even if you don’t see a camera, it’s a good idea to use your hand to shield your PIN as you enter it just in case the camera is hidden.
  • Be aware of anyone standing too close to you while you are at an ATM as they may be attempting to watch your PIN entry.
  • If you notice anything unusual, be sure to alert the bank or business in charge of the ATM. And if something just doesn’t seem right with the machine but you aren’t sure what, find another ATM for your transaction.
  • Monitor your account on a regular basis so that suspect activity can be identified quickly and reported to the bank. You can quickly and easily review your activity through the bank’s online, mobile or telephone banking which may help you identify suspect activity quickly.
  • Online and mobile banking also offer a variety of email and text alerts when a card transaction is processed on your account so that you can have the bank restrict your card if you have transactions you did not authorize.
  • If the bank is not open at the time you discover a suspected fraudulent transaction, you should report the card as stolen by calling telephone banking at 877.527.4343, selecting option 7 and follow the prompts.

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