It looks like the ATM skimmer creeps have made it to Des Moines.
Worried about ATM security? Good! Here’s how to stay safe:
- Don’t ignore basic ATM security you already know – be sure you’re in a safe, well-lit area and there aren’t any suspicious people hanging around. Mugging someone is easier and quicker than installing a skimmer.
- Use familiar ATMs and pay attention to what they look like. Any changes? A new card reader perhaps? That’s a sign that thieves have placed a skimmer there. Contact the bank to see if they’ve fixed/replaced that ATM recently.
- Try to pull the card reader off. If it comes off in your hand with a quick tug, then congratulations, you have just discovered a skimmer.
- Same thing with the PIN pad. With your debit card number, the thief still needs your PIN. Whew! Unfortunately the thief has thought of this. They either have a pinhole camera mounted somewhere (probably on the ATM) to videotape your PIN or an overlay on top of the PIN pad which records your PIN as you type it.
- Cover your hand with your other hand while you type your PIN. This helps foil the cameras.
- After you type your PIN, rest your whole hand on ALL of the buttons on the PIN pad for a moment. This heats all of the buttons up so the thief can’t use an infrared camera to get your PIN. (Yes, they really can do that, and yes, covering the PIN pad for a few seconds really does help)
- Periodically check your account balance and transactions online. At least every few days. This way you may catch any fraudulent activity faster. Did thieves get access to your account with a skimmer? Was it an online shopping hack? Who knows! Doesn’t matter, really. Good thing is that you caught it. Talk to your bank and have them back out the fraudulent activity.
- Finally, if you do discover a problem, do not panic. First, don’t actually use the ATM, even if you yanked the skimmer off. Get the hell out of there ASAP. If you’re on foot, run. If you’re in your car, lock it, roll the windows up, and get the hell away from the ATM. ATM skimming criminals may be lurking nearby to watch their toy. You just broke their toy, so they might be mad. They might resort to simply mugging you. So don’t use the ATM, don’t withdraw any money, and get the hell out of there.
Call the police from a safe distance.