Skimming, debit card fraud at ATMs

Debit card fraud by skimming is a technique in which bank card data is copied and then looted from the account. The number of manipulated ATMs has increased significantly. What methods do cheaters use and how can you protect yourself?

Debit card fraud at ATMs

Debit card fraud via skimming, more and more bank customers are becoming victims of fraud at ATMs that are manipulated with cameras, inserts and false keyboards. The damage amounts to tens of thousands of euros every year. A recognizable incident for many bank account holders. During the weekend you want to quickly withdraw an amount of money with your bank card in the hall of your bank office, but to your surprise your bank card is confiscated by the ATM. The mystery will only be solved when you receive a message from a bank employee on Monday that the balance of your account has been overdrawn. That is also the reason why your bank card has been confiscated. According to the employee involved, you withdrew more than €3,000 within two days in Romania. The misunderstanding is quickly cleared up if you assure him that you were in the Netherlands during the period in question. The employee advises you to report the incident to the police immediately and points out that your account will remain blocked for the time being. Later you hear that you were not the only victim of the bank branch involved and that several reports have been made by bank customers.

Bank card fraud in 2 companies

In bank card fraud, skimming is the technical term for a criminal procedure that has been used in Europe for a long time and in which a false bank card slot is installed on an ATM. When the customer enters the bank card, all data on the magnetic strip is first copied unnoticed. Second act: the scammers determine the PIN code via a mini camera or by directly reading the key presses . The copied data is often sent on the spot via e-mail and then transferred to a “white plastic” in a copying machine, as it is called in professional jargon. The criminals often operate internationally.

Insurance and compensation

It is not always clear how often “skimming” happens. Banks surveyed are usually silent on this point. Most banks have taken out insurance against skimming through a special fund, so that the loss is usually reimbursed within a few days.

National damage reports from skimming

There is, however, national research data available on the damage caused by skimming. It is striking that, while the damage for the whole of 2010 amounted to 20 million, the damage for the first half of 2011 already amounted to 15 million. According to the police, this increase has to do with the planned introduction of the EMV chip, which is clearly less susceptible to fraud. Because the fraud-sensitive magnetic strip was still used in 2011, the criminal guild stepped up its game at the last minute. Moreover, a fraud team of 9 people works full-time in the fight against skimming: 7 special cyber investigators and 2 specialists from Equens, the former BankGiroCentrale.

The perpetrators want your PIN code

The perpetrators cannot do anything with the data from the magnetic stripe alone. In any case, they also need your PIN code. That’s why they install a small camera above the keyboard of the machine. This is often so cleverly hidden that even experts have to look several times to discover the manipulation. Attaching an attachment or camera often takes no more than 40 seconds and no special tools are required. Simple tape is often used. To access the PIN code, a false keyboard is sometimes installed on the ATM.

Attachment mouth virtually invisible to laymen

With skimming , the perpetrators, the police usually assume that they are organized gangs, place a preliminary intention on the machine before the actual pass mouth. As a rule, this can only be noticed with a very trained eye. This allows the perpetrators to copy the data on the magnetic stripe and produce duplicates, so-called White Plastics. They do not have to look like the original at all because the perpetrators only use the fake cards at ATMs and not in shops or at a counter. And that only abroad. The perpetrators manipulate both indoor ATMs, which are generally monitored with video cameras, as well as ATMs for outdoor use.

How to protect against bank card fraud via skimming?

A whole series of precautions have now been devised to prevent such bank card fraud . Of course, everyone can prevent their PIN code from falling into unwanted hands by shielding the keyboard with their hand. In the latest ATM models, jerky intervals during card reading prevent the magnetic stripe from being read.

Daily checking of ATMs

Many banks surveyed assure that they check their ATMs every day, at least on the days they are open. However, practice shows that this is no guarantee that the machines involved will not be manipulated. In addition, the banks are trying to prevent skimming with new security technology. They often also upgrade their old equipment, for example by installing so-called “greenhorns” that prevent the skimmers from installing an attachment nozzle. There is also special software to prevent illegal reading of data.

New hardware should help

The Synfis company near Hannover offers special hardware for new and existing vending machines of all brands. A box the size of a cigarette pack installed in the machine ensures that a skimming device can only read the data in a distorted way and cannot copy it. Reading the bank card is only possible if it has completely disappeared in the processor. So far, the system introduced 3 years ago has not been cracked, but it is admitted that it remains a technical race against the fraudsters. The fact that the fraudsters’ methods are constantly changing forces security experts to be constantly vigilant.

Skimming and “The new debit card”

After the introduction of the so-called new debit card on January 1, 2012, skimmers are withdrawing money en masse outside Europe with cards that were skimmed in our country. At least according to the television program Zembla. The withdrawals are now being made at payment terminals in North and South America and Asia because the EMV chip is not yet operational there. This is stated in confidential documents from Equens, the company involved in processing PIN transactions, documents that are apparently also in the possession of Zembla. The secret documents also state that in 2012 up to November, no fewer than 160 unmanned gas stations fell victim to skimming, some of them multiple times. Criminals even installed skimming equipment at an unmanned station near Eindhoven on five occasions in 2012.