As long as there have been banks, there have been bank robbers because, quite simply, as one famous bank robber once said, “because that is where the money is.” It should therefore come as no surprise that many thieves have focused much of their attention on ATMs where they have physically installed devices called “skimmers” to steal the information contained on the ATM cards when inserted. Other types of skimmers are often fit over the keypads to steal the PINs. However, although this manner of theft is still quite effective, the use of higher tech methods for gaining access to ATMs is gaining favor with even more sophisticated thieves who have obtained jobs with companies that do technical support for the ATMs and through this access manage to install malware that will transmit card and PIN data electronically to the thieves. Other thieves are using standard phishing tactics to trick bank employees into downloading malware on to their computers that in turn provide access to the computer systems that control the ATMs. Recently this has enabled thieves to increase the limit on ATM withdrawals thereby enabling the thieves to get more money from the ATMs. With many banks still using the flawed Windows XP software this problem will be multiplying.
So what can you do to protect yourself? The first line of defense is to always check the particular ATM you are using for evidence of tampering such as loose fitting pieces in the slot where you insert your card. This could be evidence of the installation of a skimmer. However, the best thing you can do is probably to regularly monitor your account balance online so that if you become a victim of identity theft due to an identity thief getting access to your account through an ATM, you can limit the damage and report it to the bank immediately. It is not very comforting to know that no matter how careful you are, banks with less that appropriate ATM security put you in jeopardy, but that, unfortunately, is a fact of modern life.