An ATM skimmer is a card reader that is installed on some ATMs by criminals in order to steal the card numbers and PINs of the victims who use them. ATM skimmers vary in sophistication, but may be installed either directly within an ATM or next to it and may either interfere with the ATM’s regular functions or simply trick the victim into swiping his/her card. ATM skimming has been performed since the 1990s, but has recently become much more popular due to smaller computers and other advanced technologies.
How ATM Skimmers Work
An ATM skimmer can either be installed directly within an ATM or next to it and is used to read a victim’s credit/debit card as he/she swipes it. ATM skimmers are made in the same way that ATM card readers are designed, with a raised swiping device that is able to read the magnetic strip on a user’s card and a computer that is able to store and/or process the information. While an ATM is designed to access the user’s account and dispense a specified amount of money, an ATM skimmer will either record the victim’s information and state that the machine has malfunctioned or record the victim’s information and then forward the transaction to the ATM’s real processor.
ATM skimming is explicitly used to obtain a victim’s credit/debit card number and, in some cases, PIN number. However, ATM skimmers may be used on any ATM, whether it is owned by a bank or a store, as well as any card reader in general, whether it is located at a doctor’s office, convenience store, grocery store, or even a flea market. To avoid credit card theft, credit/debit card users should avoid using any ATM or card reader that looks suspicious.