Scam of the day – April 1, 2017 – ATM deposit scam

Today’s Scam of the day seems particularly appropriate for April Fool’s Day because it involves a simple scam that takes advantage of trusting people.  The Boston University Police Department is warning members of the BU community about a scam in which the victim is approached at ATMs by scammers who ask the intended victim to deposit checks made payable to the scammer into the victim’s account and then withdraw the amount of the check from the victim’s ATM account minus a small payment for their trouble and give the cash to the scammer.  Scam artists, the only criminals we call artists are quite adept at convincing their victims that they don’t have a bank account and they need the cash for an emergency.  Of course, the check is counterfeit and will bounce after going through the check clearing process which can take days or even weeks. Unfortunately, the money withdrawn from the victim’s account to give the scammer is long gone when the victim finds out that their good deed has led to their becoming a scam victim.


Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.  A bank would not cash a check for a stranger and neither should you.  Forged checks and counterfeit checks can appear quite legitimate.  The only way to know if a check is genuine is to wait until it has fully cleared and you can’t do that in this situation.

Scam of the day – November 11, 2016 – Brazen debit card scam

Florida law enforcement authorities are warning people about a scam recently being perpetrated on unwary victims which starts with the victim receiving a phone call,  purportedly from their bank, informing them that there is a problem with their debit card and that a new debit card with a chip will be issued by the bank to replace the former debit card.  Here, however, is where the scam becomes particularly brazen.  The scammers then actually go to the house of the victim to pick up his or her  present debit card.  The new chip enabled debit card is promised by the scammer to be sent in the mail shortly.  Unsuspecting victims are turning over their debit cards and their PINs to the scammers who have been using them to steal cash from ATMs and make purchases at retail stores.


This scam starts with a phone call and it is always important to remember that whenever you receive a phone call, you cannot be sure who is really calling you even if your Caller ID says the call is coming from your bank or some other legitimate source.  Caller ID can be tricked by a technique called “spoofing” to make a scammers call appear to be legitimate.  For this reason, you should never provide personal information over the phone to someone that you have not called unless you have absolutely confirmed that the call is legitimate.

As for this particular scam, no bank is going to send someone to your home to retrieve your debit card.  If you needed to confirm this fact, all you have to do is call the customer service number on the back of your debit card to find out that this is a scam.

September 10, 2016 – Steve Weisman’s latest column for USA Today

While it may appear that ATMs are a safe and secure way to get money from your bank account, the truth is that ATMs are vulnerable to being hacked in multiple ways and we, as customers must be vigilant in order to protect ourselves and the security of our bank accounts.  Here is a link to my column from USA Today describing this problem.

Scam of the day – April 18, 2015 – TD Bank hit by a skimmer

The Chelmsford Massachusetts police are investigating a skimmer that was found installed on a branch of TD Bank in Chelmsford Massachusetts.  Skimmers are small electronic devices that are easily installed by an identity thief on ATMs and other card reading devices, such as at gas pumps.  The skimmer steals all of the information from the credit card or debit card which then permits the identity thief to access that information to access the victim’s bank account when the skimmer is used on a debit card attached to a bank account.  Each skimmer can hold information on as many as 2,400 cards.


Always look for signs of tampering on any machine through which you swipe your credit card or debit card.  If the card inserting mechanism appears loose or in any other way tampered, don’t use it.   Debit cards, which are used at ATMs when compromised through a skimmer put the customers at risk of having the bank accounts tied to their cards entirely emptied if they do not report a theft promptly.   Skimmers at ATMs are often coupled with a thin, clear electronic device that goes on top of the keyboard to capture the victim’s PIN to enable the identity thief to access the account of the victim whose account number was captured through the skimmer.

Scam of the day – March 17, 2015 – ATM skimmer using criminal convicted

Recently, Dinu Horvat was convicted of a host of charges including conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in regard to a scheme in which he installed skimmers on ATMs and hidden cameras to observe people using the ATMs as they input their PINs. Skimmers are small devices that can read a credit or debit card and capture the information on the card for the criminal to use.  They may be installed on an ATM or a gas pump or any other device into which you directly swipe your credit card or debit card Horvat installed these devices on ATMs in New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida.  Along with his accomplices, twelve of whom have already pleaded guilty to charges related to the scam, he managed to steal more than five million dollars from the accounts of thousands of customers.  Horvat will be sentenced in June and faces a maximum prison sentence of thirty years.


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.  Also, cover your hand as you input your PIN.  Also, feel around the keypad to make sure that plastic covering has not been placed over the keypad, as this is another way that scammers obtain your PIN.  These plastic covers can have electronic sensors to steal your PIN.  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 than appropriate ATM security put you in jeopardy, but that, unfortunately, is a fact of modern life.

Scam of the day – May 5, 2014 – A pitiful attempt at a scam

Before I started teaching at Bentley University, I taught in the Massachusetts state prison system.  Among my students was a scam artist, who decried the fact that in his day it took skills to be a proper scam “artist,” but that with the aid of today’s technology, anyone regardless of how skilled they may or may not be, can become a scammer.  I thought of his sage analysis recently when I received the following email:

“Hello I am David this is to bring to your notice your ATM card has been release please contact us immediately with your information !!”

The email came from an address that was obviously not in any way related to any bank issuing an ATM card.  In fact, the email did not indicate my name, an account number, the name of a bank or any scintilla of information that gave the slightest indication that the email was legitimate.  Additionally, the grammar was deplorable.  All in all, this may be the most pitiful attempt at a scam that I have ever seen.  Obviously, what the scammer was trying to do was lure people into believing an emergency existed and they needed to provide information to resolve the problem.  Of course, this information would not be used to solve a problem, but rather for purposes of identity theft.


It is easy to immediately disregard such a lame attempt to solicit personal information, however, many scam artists are indeed “artists” and their lures to induce you into providing personal information that would be used to make you a victim of identity theft are of much higher quality and more believable.  The key thing to remember is that you never can trust that anyone sending you an email, text message or calling you on the phone is who they say they are.  If you believe that the communication requesting personal information may be legitimate, you still should not respond by providing the information requested, but rather should contact the real organization purporting to be contacting you at an email address, website or phone number that you have confirmed is correct to inquire as to the legitimacy of the original communication.  It is then that your fears will be confirmed and you will be told that indeed the initial communication was, in fact, a scam.

Scam of the day – June 3, 2013 – Latest skimmer scam

I have been warning you about the dangers of skimmers since the inception of Scamicide and in my book “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age.”  Recently a new wave of skimmer identity theft has been sweeping the country, with police in White Pine, Tennessee among the many places reporting an increase in this criminal activity.  As those familiar with Scamicide or my book know, a skimmer is a small electronic device that fits over any machine used to read credit cards or debit cards, such as ATMs, gas pumps or other similar devices.  Often the skimmer can be hard to recognize.  When you run your card through what you think is a legitimate card reader, your card’s information is provided to an identity thief who can use this information to make you a victim of identity theft, use your credit card to run up purchases in your name or use your debit card to empty your bank account.


Limit your use of ATMs to those of banks with which you are familiar and feel around the card insert to see if there is any indication that the device has been tampered with.  Also shield the key pad from any prying cameras that may be attempting to read your PIN when you insert it.  Also feel the pad itself to make sure that it has not been tampered with by overlaying the pad with a thin cover that electronically steals your PIN.  For more information about skimmers, you may want to get my book “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age.”  You can click on the link that shows the book on the right side of this page to go directly to Amazon to get the book at a reduced price.  Also, do not use your debit card for any purchases because the protections that you have if your debit card information is compromised through a skimmer is much less than if you use a credit card.

Scam of the day – April 5, 2013 – Dump Memory Grabber malware

A new type of malware that is infecting credit card readers used at retail establishments as well as ATMs is posing a huge problem for American consumers using their credit cards and debit cards for purchases.  The malware is called the Dump Memory Grabber malware.    It is believed that the malware is the creation of Russian criminals.  Once installed on a credit card reader such as you would commonly find at the checkout counter of many stores or an ATM, the malware is able to read the information encoded on the credit card or debit card, such as the name of the card holder, the account number and the card’s expiration date.  This information is transmitted from the card reader or ATM to the criminals automatically electronically.  The information once received is used to creat fake credit cards that can be used to access the credit or in the case of debit cards, the bank accounts of the people whose card information has been stolen.  So far, credit and debit cards of Chase, Capital One, Citibank and Union Bank of California have all been hit by this scam.


Unlike the “skimmer” which I have described before in, a person using an infected credit card reader or ATM has no way of knowing if the machine has been tampered with.  The best thing you can do is to make sure that you constantly monitor your credit card bills for unauthorized purchases and report them immediately to your credit card issuer.  Federal law limits your liability to no more than $50 and most credit card issuers will not even charge you that amount.  However, with a debit card you do not get the same protection.  If you do not discover that your debit card has been compromised promptly, you risk losing your entire bank account tied to the card and even if you do discover the breach immediately, your account will be frozen while your bank investigates the matter.  My advice is not to use your debit card ever for purchases.  Only use it as an ATM card.