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Don't Get Scammed by ATM Skimming

Learn how to spot and avoid ATM skimmers to keep your account information safe.

by Navy Federal on December 1, 2014 | Tag(s): Security


The vast majority of ATM transactions are conducted safely and securely—in a few minutes, you can carry out your business and be on your way. But ATM fraud can and does happen. You can help prevent it by being aware of a scheme called ATM skimming. With ATM skimming, thieves attach electronic devices on or near ATMs in an attempt to capture your card number and/or personal identification number (PIN). Some point-of-sale (POS) terminals, handheld card scanners and self-service gas station pumps are also susceptible to skimming scams. With the card number and PIN, scammers may be able to make online purchases or empty your checking or savings account. Although federal law limits your liability when using a debit card, depending on how quickly you report the fraud, it can take time and effort to clear up the mess. In addition to federal laws, at Navy Federal, you're protected from unauthorized purchases with the Navy Federal Zero Liability policy.

What to look for

Skimming devices

These gadgets are often placed over or into the card slot. When an individual slides a card into a compromised card slot, the reader can scan and store the information from the card's magnetic strip. Be especially cautious if the ATM has an unusual-looking attachment, odd markings, scratches or tape residue. The same goes if anything on the front of the machine looks crooked, loose or damaged, which may be a sign of tampering. Don't force your ATM card into the card slot, and make sure your card is returned when you've finished your transaction. If your card isn't returned from a Navy Federal ATM, stop in to that branch location or call 1-888-842-6328 to report the issue.

Keypad overlays

These devices placed over the ATM's keypad can capture PINs as they're entered. Overlays may flatten or pull the surface of the keys out.

Tiny cameras

A small video recording device or camera may have been installed on or near the ATM, perhaps near the speaker, near the overhead lighting or on the sides of a recessed ATM. A more recent scam involves thieves taking thermal photos of the ATM or POS keypad after you've entered your PIN. The heat scan shows the numbers and the order in which you pressed them, since the most recently pressed keys are the "hottest" ones. Resting your other fingers on the numbers of a nonmetal keypad helps ensure that these cameras don't reveal your code. (Metal keypads aren't susceptible to this method.)

Navy Federal has significant procedures and security systems in place to monitor and protect its ATMs from skimmers. You can help us—and your fellow credit union members—by being alert to potential ATM tampering.

What you can do

When looking for an ATM to use, choose one located in a well-lit area such as a store or lobby, and avoid standalone or unusual-looking machines. Before beginningyour transaction, inspect the ATM for any signs of tampering. If something seems suspicious, particularly with the machine's keyboard or card slot, cancel yourtransaction and notify the owner of the ATM.

Stand directly in front of the ATM as you begin your transaction and shield the keyboard with your hand as you enter your PIN. Be aware of your surroundings and watch for anyone standing too close. When your transaction is complete, if your card is not returned from the ATM, notify the ATM owner immediately. If you suspect a skimming device has been installed on a Navy Federal ATM, do not try to remove the device. Instead, notify us right away at 1-888-842-6328 with the location of the ATM. If you suspect an issue at another ATM where you used your Navy Federal card, notify local law enforcement and the owner of the ATM, and let us know at the number above. Learn other ATM safety tips.

We're on your side

Navy Federal has significant procedures and security systems in place to monitor and protect its ATMs from skimmers. You can help us—and your fellow credit union members—by being alert to potential ATM tampering.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.