Skimming: More and more data theft at ATMs – how to protect yourself

Gangsters are increasingly trying to steal PINs and credit or debit card data from ATMs. How to protect yourself.

ATMs are increasingly becoming a trap for bank customers. Because the number of skimming attacks is increasing: Gangsters are increasingly trying to steal customer data from ATMs, as Spiegel Online reports.

In the first half of 2022, the banks registered 140 skimming cases, with a focus in Hamburg with 75 such cases. Fraudsters tried to steal the PIN and a copy of the credit card by attaching technical devices to the ATM, as “Euro Kartensysteme” explains. For comparison: In the whole of 2021 there were 136 cases of skimming.

But there is also positive news: the amount of damage fell from 293,000 euros in 2021 to 87,000 euros in 2022. The secure EMV chip technology on the card and terminal would make skimming increasingly difficult. Because this security chip in the newer cards enables the real time of the card to be checked and thus prevents fraud.

EMC chip against skimming

The savings banks explain the protective effect of the chip as follows: ”

Developed by Europay International, MasterCard and Visa, this EMV chip has been available in all ATMs, Girocards (debit cards) and credit cards throughout the EU since 2012. Since then, transactions no longer run via the magnetic stripe, but via the chip. Counterfeit cards with stolen magnetic strips can therefore no longer be used for cash withdrawals or payments in the EU.

Another advantage of the chip: it is extremely forgery-proof. The sensitive bank information is stored in encrypted form. In addition, the EMV chip cannot be duplicated or modified.

Only magnetic strips are a risk

Skimming is only possible with the older magnetic strips, which are easy to copy. These illegal copies are then used primarily in Brazil to withdraw money.

This is how the scam happens

The Sparkasse explains the procedure as follows: ”

Skimming means the illegal reading of credit or giro cards (debit cards) at ATMs or terminals. Fraudsters are targeting the cards’ magnetic stripe, as this contains all the important bank information. You use it to create a card double. Together with the spied-out PIN, fraudsters can then have cash paid out or pay with it in the shop – at the expense of the cardholder. The good news: In Germany, the magnetic stripe is no longer important, since the chip in the card is used to pay or withdraw money. In non-European countries, however, banks continue to use the magnetic stripe.

According to the Sparkasse, the criminals’ technical measures look like this: “

Criminals manipulate ATMs or card readers in shops to obtain important bank data. To do this, they install an additional reader in front of the card slot on machines. This stores the information on a card’s magnetic stripe.

There are various ways of intercepting the PIN: Fraudsters stick a small camera bar over the keyboard and film the PIN being entered. Illegal cameras can also be found in brochure holders or as fake smoke detectors on the ceiling. The keyboard itself can also be fake. A second keypad is used here, which is attached above the actual one – a so-called skimmer. This records the keystrokes. Criminals sometimes also install manipulated readers on the entrance doors of branches to read account data.”

Also possible:

“‘Deep insert skimming’ is also becoming more and more common. A small bug is inserted into the card slot, which reads and stores the card data. Unlike the attachment, it cannot be seen with the naked eye


That’s why there are still magnetic strips

But why do bank cards still have a magnetic stripe? The Savings Banks: ”

ATMs and terminals outside of the EU are not yet fully equipped with EMV. That’s why all Girocards and credit cards still have a magnetic stripe today. Without it, a cash payment or payment in non-European countries would often not be possible. For this reason, criminals are still trying to get the data from the magnetic stripe. They use the counterfeit cards where security measures have not previously been adequate.

Experts explain that the number of cases is now increasing again by the fact that criminals are once again trying to misuse as many magnetic stripe cards as possible. Before these are replaced by new cards with a security chip.

How to protect yourself (tips from Sparkasse):

  • Be careful with your payment details. Never keep your card and PIN together.

  • Always check the ATM: are there any unusual facings or ledges? Try to tug gently, often these are not attached securely.

  • Do not use ATMs if anything strikes you as odd.

  • Avoid vending machines in outdoor areas. These are manipulated more often because they are not supervised.

  • Always protect the PIN entry with your free hand.

  • Do you have multiple cards? Always use one to open the branch door and the others to withdraw and pay.

  • Never enter your PIN when opening the branch door. No Sparkasse or bank would demand that.

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