Ask Andy: ATM "skimming" is back

(WMC TV) - Just when we thought the coast was clear around the credit card readers of our banks and gas stations, security experts said card "skimmers" are making a comeback.

"Skimming" is when identity thieves install their own skimmers inside or around an ATM's card-reader. You swipe your card, the skimmer records your card number.

Bingo! The thief has your card information.

A few years ago, the good guys tried to beat skimming scams by designing and installing ATM or gas pump card-readers that extend out instead of laying flat.

But thieves soon learned how to hijack those, too.

Robert Siciliano, CEO of ( told consumer resource Bottom Line Personal magazine before consumers use an ATM with an extended card-reader, they should follow these safety measures:

* THE "YANK & TWIST." Give the reader a gentle yank and twist. If it's loose, it may be a fake extender to disguise a thief's skimmer. While you're at it, jiggle the keypad panel. Thieves can sabotage that, too.

* COLOR MATCHES. Make sure the color of the plastic around the card-reader matches the color of the plastic around the rest of the machine.

* HIDDEN CAMERAS. Both Siciliano and Agent Rick Harlow, special agent-in-charge of the Secret Service's Memphis office, said thieves install hidden cameras to record customers punching in their PIN numbers. The bad guys typically hide them in a bank brochure holder or inside a fake speaker mounted on the machine. Inspect those spots, and cover your hand while you punch your PIN.

* SMOOTH = SAFE. If your card slides smoothly, you're in the clear. If it jams or rides roughly, there just might be a skimmer.

To make sure you haven't already been skimmed, keep up with your account's bank statements. If the math is fuzzy or some of the withdrawals are mysterious, alert your bank immediately.

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