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How to Protect Yourself from ATM Skimming

How to Protect Yourself from ATM Skimming

ATM skimming

Credit and debit card fraud and data breach cases are steadily increasing since the year 2012. That number was tripled in 2017 by hackers and skimmers intending to steal your card information to make a clone of your card. They later use this duplicate card to empty your bank account. This has created a massive fear in debit and credit card users.

A sigh of relief came when major banks and financial institutions worldwide decided to replace the magnetic strips on the back of the credit/debit cards to an EMV smart chip in late 2015. Here EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard and Visa. This has made most older skimming techniques obsolete.

But like everyone else, thieves and unethical hackers are upgrading their tech skills in line with protection trends. Recently, they came up with a new card hacking technique called “shimming”. I won’t discuss much of this technique as it is beyond the scope of this post and also illegal.

What is ATM skimming? How does it work?

ATM skimming is a technique used by hi-tech criminals to create a clone of your debit card by stealing data from the magnetic strip inside it. They do it by replacing the card insertion slot(on the ATM) with a device called a skimmer. A skimmer is a fake insertion slot which looks and feels (upon insertion of the card) like a genuine insertion slot.

Moreover, to retrieve your ATM pin or password, the criminals install a pinhole camera hidden somewhere above the keypad. The camera records the keystrokes without you suspecting anything.

How Do I Protect Myself from ATM skimming?

1. Check the insertion slot before putting in your card

The skimmer is usually a bit bigger compared to the original insertion slot, hence the criminals place it over the original insertion slot (usually attached to it with glue or a thin tape). Make sure to push and pull the insertion slot to see if it’s a skimmer. If it is a skimmer, it will come right off. Report the authority guarding the ATM or call your bank to notify them about the attempted theft.

2. Hide Your Keypad While Entering the PIN

If it’s not with the hidden camera, criminals will retrieve your PIN by some other clever technique. They can’t do so if you just cover the keypad with one hand and enter the PIN with the other. However, there is one caveat to this preventive measure. What if the keypad itself is a fake one? So, you will have to check that too.

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3. Don’t Use an ATM Located in a Secluded Place

Always try to use ATMs located in a busy place like a street, mall, in an industrial complex, inside a school or university, etc. The criminals won’t risk getting caught by rigging the ATM in a busy area.

Most ATM skimming cases are reported in a village or small town area. Also, the ATMs on the streets(without a booth) are more prone to skimming as there are no security cameras in such places.


I know there is no sure, fool-proof way of protecting your ATM card from techniques like skimming and shimming. Criminals are way smarter these days and can steal your money despite taking all the preventive measures. But the more you know about such practices, the safer you will be.

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