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Identity Theft and The ATM Game

Name the device and the odds are identity thieves have a scam for it. And when it comes to the automatic teller machine they have hit the proverbial jackpot.

They were supposed to be of such great convenience and in truth they really are. The automatic teller machine has been a godsend to many of us. Stranded in a remote area? Chances are there is an ATM there for you. Got to get some quick cash and three o clock in the morning? No problem. As a matter of fact it is a whole lot easier these days to find an ATM then it is a pay phone which seems to be going the way of the buffalo.

All of this is just fine with identity thieves. Name the device and the odds are identity thieves have a scam for it. And when it comes to the automatic teller machine they have hit the proverbial jackpot.

How much of a jackpot? At the very least over one billion dollars and as of this writing shows no signs in letting up. Law enforcement officials in some parts of the country are reporting an increase in ATM fraud activity.

So how do scammers go about pulling off these elaborate yet highly effective rip-offs? There are a number of ways but a few make it to the top of the list:

1. The Skimmer

Skimmers are small electronic devices which can be place directly inside the ATM. If you think it should be something that anyone can easily detect think again. People go to an automatic teller machine to get money not to ponder whether or not someone is trying to rip them off. Therefore the chances are if you are not looking for it you will not see it. And many experienced identity thieves no how to hook it up in such a way that even if you were searching for it you would not find it.

The skimmers job is just that. To glean as much information off your card as possible once you put it into the terminal. That information includes the card number, the expiration date, the CVV and pin number. It’s the equivalent of you telling a total stranger all of your credit card and financial information. In Staten Island a group of thieves got away with over a half a million dollars using skimmers in conjunction with miniature cameras.

2. The Shoulder Surf

From time to time in your search for an ATM you may come across a line of people who had the same idea as you. Yet every now and then somebody standing in that line has a different idea and that is to steal your information.

Now shoulder surfing on its own is not the issue. If the thief does not know what your card number is then it does not matter how many times they watch you put in your pin number. But if they have installed a mini camera to capture your information then that’s a different story altogether.

Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be anything high tech. Placing some kind of adhesive in the card slot like glue or even bubble gum will suffice as long as the card gets stuck to the point you either have to keep typing in your PIN or you are totally unable to retrieve it.

Then it all comes down to timing. Identity Thieves hope you leave the scene for enough time for them to get what they need and disappear. Going into the bank lobby to report what just happened is one way to ensure they are successful.

ATM’s are not just confined to bank machines either. They are used at gas pumps, restaurants, supermarkets and anywhere else they are required. That by no means implies everyone is out to steal your identity. It does mean however that you should be extra cautious and observant when you go to use an automatic teller machine no matter where it is.

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