Local man finds card skimmer on ATM


A Consumerist reader found a card skimmer on a WaMu ATM. He ripped it off and reported it to the police and the bank. The police said they'd never actually seen one in real life.

I always check for card skimmers at the ATM by smashing the front repeatedly with a sledgehammer, starting with the camera.

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  1. I saw something really great on one of the ATMs in Amsterdam, an idea which all banks should adopt.

    When you first go up to the ATM, the screen displays a list of languages with “Press here to begin” in each language, next to the buttons.

    After you select a language, the first thing shown on the screen is a picture of the card slot on the ATM as it should appear, with a warning not to insert your card if the card reader appearance differs from what is displayed.

  2. Theres a device I see on alot of ATMs in Canada here that have a little machine built into the card slot. When your card enters the slot, the card is vibrated back and forth in the slot for a few seconds, so any card reader will get corrupt data as the card would not be read fully.

  3. Easier than smashing the atm surveillance cam is covering it with a thick vinyl sticker depicting the Eye of Sauron…

  4. Nearly all major bank ATMs in Canada redesigned their card slots a year a go to be unique per bank and to have a image displayed on the terminal window to show you what the slot should look like.

    Merchants have also started to tether their Interac debit readers to the counters to prevent them from being swapped with modified ones.

    I always get suspicious when I see a really old ATM or debit reader.

  5. My wife became very angry with me one day, telling me that I shouldn’t use the household card on my business trips.
    But honey, I was in Prague, not Bucharest. Actually, this number matches your bank card, not mine.

    So it happened to us too. All in all we lost only a small amount, but it sure was spooky.

    Oh and the BB story says ‘The police said they’d never actually seen one in real life.’, that’s a bit unfair because in the actual story it is the individual officer that says he has never seen one, that is something else then ‘the police have never seen one’.

  6. these are rife in the uk, they also usually contain a camera to record your pin.
    they come in different shapes and sizes to fit different machines and are often very convincing. they are often much larger than this covering larger portions of the atm.

    however WARNING do not attempt to remove one of these on your own, the bad guys are close by, watching their precious skimming machine and will take steps to recover it.

    just go into the bank/shop and report it and let the police deal with it.

  7. How politically correct (or pragmatic?) of them to include the Braille, so they can rip off blind people, too.

  8. Odd, the skimmer’s usually behind the atm.

    How do you propose they put the skimmer behind the ATM? How do they then record your pin number? Most skimming devices come in 2 parts, one part to copy the card and another hidden camera to record your PIN.

  9. I once found a skimmer on the front of an ATM in London. Something just didn’t look right and I was able to pull it off. Walking to a nearby shop to call the police I was assaulted by a gang of about 3 people who were after the skimmer. Fearing for my life I threw it to the ground and ran away.

    Lesson is that if you find a skimmer, the operating gang aren’t that far away. So be careful! A woman I had noticed idling beside the ATM was the look-out.

  10. I’d like my bank to provide a card without a magstripe. I never use it — everything here uses the chip. If I expect to go abroad I could request a card with a magstripe.

  11. Itsumishi,

    My understanding of the above comment was that the banks are skimmers too in a way, with their overdraft fees and such.

  12. I’m surprised the cops didnt taser the guy on the spot, arrest him, strip search him, DNA him, throw him in a cell, send a SWAT team to his house, kill his dog, tear the place apart, confiscate his computers, put his children in state care, impound his vehicles, and then make him plead guilty to some corruption of evidence misdemeanor to avoid a court hearing and certain imprisonment, unless of course he was black in which case he would be on death row, or muslim, then on a waterboard…

  13. Ah…good ole Wamu…now backed by the decent, honest, and friendly Chase. *coughs* Yeah I pulled my money out of there several years ago when I started getting charged for overdrafts with 6x the amount of any checks or charges outstanding in the bank. Got tired of having to fight for my own money back. I’m actually surprised since it’s now Chase that they haven’t reversed the interest on savings so you pay .025% to “save” your money with them.

  14. @12: don’t feel too safe. A few months ago, it emerged that criminals infiltrated the factory in China that makes chip-and-PIN terminals used in shops in Europe and modified the terminals to contain a GSM module and some extra logic for sending the card number/PIN to a drop box. Someone noticed this when they were standing near a supermarket checkout and heard the sound of mobile phone interference on their headphones.

    Utterly evil, though you have to give them points for ingenuity.

  15. @bigvicproton I understand your amazement, but I think we can all come to a logical conclusion given the treatment of the innocent by law enforcement in recent times. Given that law enforcement has been shown to abuse the innocent and that this man was not treated as such, we can safely deduce that this man is in fact guilty, probably even behind the scam. It’s really the only logical explanation.

  16. “After you select a language, the first thing shown on the screen is a picture of the card slot on the ATM as it should appear, with a warning not to insert your card if the card reader appearance differs from what is displayed.”

    just another nuisance for the thief to circumvent, not really a long term solution.

  17. I’ve always wondered why there would need to a plastic beak-like thing on ATMs anyway. Why not just a slot in a blank metal plate? Don’t see how something like that could get dickied…

  18. Not yet mentioned is the sad fact that very many of the folks adding skimmers to ATMs or other card readers are actually employees of the establishment.

    They have the prolonged access to the machines necessary to design and set up their skimmers and retrieve the information from them.

  19. “After you select a language, the first thing shown on the screen is a picture of the card slot on the ATM as it should appear, with a warning not to insert your card if the card reader appearance differs from what is displayed.”

    Yeah, if somebody really wants to skim your card, they’ll find a way to make it blend in with the machine’s normal look. Sad, but true.

  20. here is a report from someone who found a skimmer on an ATM, took it off and brought it home to examine and take pictures:
    The website (sorry, Dutch only) shows the internals of the skimmer, and gives a detailed explanation of its components and workings.
    The skimmer contains an USB filmcamera, magnetic reader plus electronics, infrared LED for lighting the keypad ard and a green LED with its own 1,5 volt battery.
    Camera gets its current from e Nokia NiMh battery. Lens is aimed at the keypad. Camera has 2GB storage and makes movies at 1MB/minute. So a total of 32 hours can be recorded.
    The skimmer was taped to the ATM with strong double-sided tape.

  21. I’ve been checking for these things for years now, but I also have the paranoia of an ex-spy hopped up on reefer smoke, so that might have something to do with it.

  22. Keran@14: “How politically correct (or pragmatic?) of them to include the Braille, so they can rip off blind people, too.”

    Funny enough – blind people will NOT fall for this.

    Credit for this catch goes to a really sharp-eyed co-worker who also knows Braille.

    The sign has been ripped off from somewhere else, and just pasted at the top of the skimmer. But the Braille actually reads “INSERT CARD ABOVE”, when the slot is *below* the sign! If you actually read the Braille and try and follow the directions, you would quickly realize that something is wrong.

  23. It’s always the local man that finds these things. What about reporting on the guy in the city thousands of miles away for a change?

  24. Wow I sure have been missing the obvious jokes lately. I blame the fact that I’m always drunk when I read BB lately.

    Also is anyone else finding there are a lot of strange login issues lately? As in you have to log in to see your recent posts, then again to post again?

    Also I really don’t like the look of the page with all my recent posts. No space anywhere, just big blocks of text!

  25. Rather than show a picture of the slot as it’s supposed to be, why not have the slot be surrounded by some cheap display capable of changing color? It could change randomly after each use, and the main screen could show the same color. If they differ, there is a skimmer. Guessing would be impossible.

    Sadly, it’s probably cheaper to write off the losses, if there are any.

  26. We actually found one today and called the police. It was glued to a Diebold ATM machine here in Germany.

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