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How to Spot and Avoid Common ATM Scams

Scammers are always coming up with clever new ways to separate people from their hard-earned money, including at the ATM. In recent years, criminals have invented high-tech methods to steal debit or credit card data and personal identification numbers (PINs) from ATM users. 

Thankfully, ATM scams can be preventable if you know the warning signs. Stay vigilant and protect yourself from fraud by learning about the most common types of ATM scams. 

Skimming Scams

“Skimmers" are devices placed over an ATM's card reader or keypad to collect card and PIN data. Skimmers can be tricky to spot because they're designed to blend in with the rest of the ATM. But, if you know what to look for, you can avoid falling victim to a skimming scam! 

Start by visually inspecting the ATM for signs that it's been tampered with. Look for broken or loose pieces and lights on the machine that aren't working. Pull at the card reader and keypad to see if they seem loose. Scammers can also hide cameras on the ATM, so look for any pieces that look out of place. 

Shimming Scams

Unlike skimmers, which are attached to the outside of an ATM, shimming devices are installed inside the ATM's card reader. When a chip card is inserted, the shimmer captures its data. Scammers then use the stolen data to create fake cards and access their victim's money. Shimmers are harder to detect than skimmers. If you feel resistance when inserting your card, or if it gets stuck, there could be a shimmer inside the card reader. 

ATM Malware Attacks

Scammers can also attempt ATM fraud by infecting the machine's computer system with dangerous software, or “malware." Once installed, malware can steal card and PIN data from the system. At Wright-Patt Credit Union (WPCU), we check our ATMs multiple times a day to ensure the systems have not been compromised by malware, skimming or shimming attempts. 

Anytime you use an ATM, monitor your accounts and statements for unusual activity caused by skimming or shimming attempts or malfunctioning machines. Don't overlook withdrawals less than a dollar — it could be a warning sign of a scammer trying to “test" your card before making a larger transaction. Report any fraudulent account activity to your financial institution right away. 

In-Person ATM Theft

Not all ATM fraud involves sophisticated technology. It's also important to take precautions to avoid in-person ATM theft, especially at night. Before using an ATM, always observe your surroundings. Try to find an ATM in a public, well-lit area. Limit your time spent at the ATM by having your card ready before approaching the machine. Don't count or display cash at the ATM — wait until you're in a secure place. 

When using the ATM, remember to cover the keypad with your hand to prevent others from seeing you enter your PIN. Never let anyone try to “help" you with your ATM transaction. If you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts. Leave and find another ATM in a place where you feel safe and secure!

How to Report ATM Fraud 

If you notice anything suspicious about an ATM, don't insert your card. Call the financial institution that operates the ATM to notify them of the problem. If you believe your card or PIN information was stolen, contact your financial institution immediately to report the suspected fraud and secure your accounts.

WPCU is here to help you protect your personal and financial information and avoid becoming a victim of fraud. We have the tips, tools and resources you need to keep your money and information safe. For more fraud prevention tips, please visit