A few tips to avoid being a victim of ATM skimming rings

After several recent arrests in Western Washington by a task force targeting ATM skimming rings, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Secret Service have some tips for consumers to try to avoid being victimized by skimmers.

Thieves use electronic ‘skimming’ devices to drain victim bank accounts and run up unauthorized credit card charges, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office media release.

The Electronic Crimes Task Force, led by the Secret Service, has made a half dozen arrests in the last few weeks in Washington.

“The suspects arrested over the last few weeks account for more than a million dollars in losses to banks and consumers,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan who chairs the Justice Department’s Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Enforcement working group. “We believe that with this most recent arrest, we have located and dismantled the nerve center of one of the most prolific rings, which used illegal immigrants from Romania to commit the frauds.”

Throughout the course of these investigations, authorities have seized forms for making card skimmers, fake face plates for ATM machines, gift cards and electronic equipment for encoding stolen account data onto the cards.

The consumer tips include:

• If the access door to a lobby ATM is broken, don’t use the ATM, go somewhere else.

• If there is more than one ATM, and a sign has been placed on one of the units saying it is out of service, go somewhere else – the sign could be an attempt to direct traffic to the machine where skimming equipment is installed.

• Check the machine before putting your card in – is the card slot securely in the machine? Has anything been installed around the edges of the machine that could conceal a camera? Is any glue or sticky substance around the key pad or card slot?

• Always attempt to cover your hand when you enter your PIN so that if there is a camera, the numbers cannot be captured.

• Watch your account activity and report any unauthorized credit or debit charges immediately.

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