How to Protect Yourself from ATM Identity Theft

Most of us feel comfortable in using ATMs and that is why some us don’t even realize our financial information is rather vulnerable. Not all thieves are present online and not all of them involve hacking or data mining over the internet. In fact, there are thieves who target individuals at ATMs.

We can’t deny the fact that ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) have been a great blessing to us. They are extremely convenient considering, whenever you are in need of money, you can find one pretty much everywhere. Moreover, these ATMs are available 24/7 and are really easy to use. Although ATMs may have seemed impossible decades ago, life today seems like it would be particularly difficult without them.

Even though we might consider them as a blessing, certain issues still can’t be avoided just like other things have. When you are in need money and have decided to either drive to the nearest ATM or just walk to the one across the street, it is important to take precautionary measures to ensure that you are not making yourself vulnerable to identity theft.

Here are a few tips for you to keep in mind:


  • Beware of skimming

Skimming is one of the most common methods that thieves use in order to collect data from an ATM. In this one, the thief attaches a certain device on the ATM. This device then allows thieves to acquire certain data like PINs, credit card numbers and cardholder’s name. Fairfax County Police’s Detective Tom Polhemus located in Virginia said that the devices that these criminals use are subtle and small. Therefore, it would be difficult to notice them. Moreover, the device is capable of functioning for 2-4 hours, which could potentially mean dozens or hundreds of cards’ details depending on how busy the area might be.

After they are done skimming a few cards, the thieves remove the device and head off to their next target ATM. These devices are usually attached using a tape or glue. Tom said that ATM users should beware of using machines with card receivers that are bulky, poorly attached to the machine or out of place. Machines with scratches, cracks and tapes should be avoided at all cost.

  • Check if there are cameras installed

With the continuously evolving technology, companies have been releasing smaller cameras each time. The thieves makes use of this technology by installing them near the ATM. Obviously, they are much smaller than the security cameras usually attached to an ATM. Even though it might be hard to discover the camera, you could check all sides of the ATM to check whether it has small holes where mini cameras might be installed. If you feel like something is unusual or out of place with the ATM, then it would be best to locate and use a different one and inform the bank (if it’s open) of the problem.

  • Check the ATM’s keypad

There are thieves that make use of keypads if skimming or placing a camera did not work out well for their criminal activity. These keypads are placed over the actual keypad of the ATM and these are really hard to detect. However, just like the tips mentioned for the cameras, look for another machine if there is something odd with the current machine you are planning to use.

Aside from the tips mentioned above, it would be better and safer to choose an ATM near a bank instead of one located on a random street corner. Moreover, always remember to cover with your hand the numbers that you press for your PIN. Always ask for receipts and keep them until you have compared it with your bank statement. No matter what precautionary measures you you choose to go with at the ATM, it’s be a good idea to use credit monitoring services as well.

Do You Really Need RFID Blocking Wallet?

Buying a wallet used to be a relatively simple decision.  You had your choice of a bifold, trifold, credit card sleeve or maybe just a money clip.  Now if you flip through tech or gadget magazine, you’ll find a whole new genre of wallets that are designed with RFID blocking protection. Like this one from Common Fibers and Billetus  RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) blocking wallets are, in theory, made to shield your smart cards from identity thieves who use a cheap, handheld RFID scanners to “skim” your card information from a distance.  Once they’ve downloaded your card information, they create a new card with your card number and details. That’s when the real damage starts, because the new cards read just like a legitimate credit card and credit card scanners can’t tell the difference.  The criminals can do all of this from several feet away, without you even knowing it’s happening.

With frightening reality in mind, do you really need an RFID blocking wallet?  Do they even work as advertised?  To some extent they may offer a level of protection, however not all of these wallets work as well as others. Testing by Consumer Reports and others have shown that some of the RFID blocking wallets on the market work about as well as wrapping your credit cards in a layer of aluminum foil..but others may have some merit.

It’s also not certain whether the threat of RFID skimming is occurring often enough to truly be a concern for most people.  There have been very few reported cases of RFID skimming crimes and for good reason.  There are simpler and more effective ways of stealing peoples personal information and money.

RFID technology has improved significantly since it’s inception.  Early versions would transmit sensitive information unencrypted, including credit card numbers.  However, according to the major credit card companies, the latest RFID payment systems are extremely secure and now use full data encryption.  Nevertheless, RFID technology may be dying a slow death as card companies begin the transition to cards with EMV chip and PIN technology, which are considerably less susceptible to remote skimming.  EMV cards do not transmit a radio frequency signal, so an RFID wallet isn’t going to do much good with these new cards.

Even if you make the switch to all EMV based credit cards, you may still be transmitting an RFID signal from your drivers license or passport.  Luckily, the only information anyone is likely to steal is your name and physical address.  Even if compromised, this basic information isn’t likely to make you a fraud or identity theft victim.  If you fancy yourself as a wannabe James Bond or you’re just a little on the paranoid side, an RFID wallet may be a wise purchase.  However, chances are you’ll be ok without one.