Member security: What’s card skimming and what should I look out for?

Person with red wallet inserting credit card into an Automated Teller Machine (ATM).
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Debit and credit cards have built-in layers of security designed to protect your money from fraud. With smart technologies such as the Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV) chip, which encrypts your information to make transactions more secure, using a debit or credit card is often safer than carrying cash.

For those moments when you do need cash, there’s always the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and our Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs – which include our new video teller service). Before you visit one, however, there are a few things you might want to know about card skimming.

Card skimming occurs whenever someone uses a skimming device to steal your debit card data. These devices are tiny card readers hidden within legitimate card readers, such as the one on an ATM. They stealthily capture the information from your card, often while a nearby camera records your Personal Identification Number (PIN).

Any machine that reads your card could be sensitive to skimming. ATMs are often targeted because they’re left unattended outdoors or in vestibules. Remote locations are especially vulnerable. For example, card readers at gas station pumps aren’t monitored. It’s important to be alert when you use a card reader at a remote location.

“Card skimmers on ATMs do occur frequently globally and can be tough to spot,” says Matthew Wilson, VP of Risk and Administration at OCCU. “Perpetrators of these crimes are often tech savvy and do their best to hide the two components necessary: a skimmer and a camera. The skimmer will be placed in the same location where you’ll insert your ATM or card into the machine, with a miniscule camera installed nearby to capture you entering your PIN."

At OCCU, we take your member and data security as seriously as our own. We’re doing everything we can on our end to ensure our ATMs are safe and secure every time you use them. We also want to empower you with the information you need to protect yourself — especially when you’re grabbing cash at a convenience store or other ATM that isn’t as heavily monitored as ours.

How to spot a card skimmer

As identity thieves grow more savvy, card skimmers are getting harder to spot. While some are made to fit over the ATM’s card reader and can often be identified if you know what to look for, others are small enough to hide inside.

Every visit to an ATM, it’s important to pay attention. Before you insert your card, run a quick inspection to make sure the machine you’re about to use isn’t compromised. Here’s how:

  • Take note of whether the card reader is bulky, doesn’t fit quite right, or has a different color or material than the rest of the machine.
  • Try wiggling the reader to see if it moves easily.
  • Look inside the reader to see if anything has been inserted.
  • Try out the buttons on the keypad to see whether they’re unusually hard to push.
  • If space allows, use your other hand to cover the keypad while you enter your PIN.

“Always check the machine for loose components, any new components that look out of place,” Wilson says. “The attackers will typically come back to retrieve their camera, especially if the device is storing the video locally."

If you notice any of the signs above, don’t use that ATM. Find another one instead.

It’s important to notify our team right away to keep you and our members safe. “If anything looks out of place, please let our branch or call center representatives know right away,” Wilson says.

What OCCU is doing to protect you

Cybercriminals constantly evolve their methods to avoid detection, but our security team is on top of it. At OCCU, we work hard every day to stay ahead of scammers and fraudsters. We spent the past year upgrading all our ATMs to enhance and upgrade security features designed to prevent tampering. Our machines are monitored by 24-hour cameras, and we have onsite security during business hours to help ensure our ATMs are safe and secure.

As always, our members’ security is one of our top priorities. If you think you’ve spotted a card skimmer on one of our ATMs, or experienced any type of fraud, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact our team. We’re here to help you and keep your financial security safe.