ATM Keypad Closeup
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Digital Pad ATM Skimming Device Warning

by Brett M. Christensen

Outline

Circulating image depicts a scamming system in which a fake keypad is placed over the top of the genuine keypad on an ATM as a means of stealing card data.

Brief Analysis

Such card skimming devices are certainly real. In fact, criminals have used several types of devices that can be fitted on different areas of an ATM in order to harvest card data input by users. The pictured digital pad is just one such device. The image is included on a page about payment card fraud on the Europol website. Although banks have taken steps to improve ATM security, users should remain vigilant. Watch out for anything about the ATM that looks unusual or out-of-place.

Example

ATM Keypad Skimming Device

Be Careful!!! New scamming system….Digital pad that stores & reads card data!

 

Detailed Analysis

Unlike many of the security warnings that circulate via Facebook, this one has validity. The circulating image depicts a fake keypad that fits over the real keypad on an ATM. The message’s caption warns that the digital pad is a scamming system that can capture the PIN and other data entered on the fake keypad.

The image is genuine. ATM keyboard skimmer plates like the one pictured do exist and have been used by criminals to steal PIN and banking data from unsuspecting ATM users. The same image is included on the website of Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, in a gallery titled “Counterfeit cash & payment card fraud”. The image has the caption, “Card skimming: The genuine keypad is covered with a fake to dupe the customer.
The particular device pictured may have been used on a European ATM. However, similar fake keyboard devices have been used on ATMs in other parts of the world as well.

In fact, card skimming devices of various kinds are nothing new and have been used by criminals to steal financial information for many years. ATMs come in a variety of formats and configurations and so do the devices criminals use to steal information from them. Some skimmers, like the phoney keypad in the above image, may record keystrokes made by the user for later retrieval by the criminals.

Other fake devices may fit over the ATM’s card reader and either store the card data or transmit it wirelessly to nearby criminals using smartphones or laptops. Another ATM skimming warning that began circulating back in 2005 depicts such a card reader skimmer device.

Some skimmer devices are used in conjunction with tiny cameras hidden over the top of or off to the side of the ATM screen. These cameras can capture pictures of the keypad as users input their pins and store the pictures for retrieval by criminals.

The stolen account data can later be downloaded, encoded onto blank cards and used to conduct fraudulent transactions.

The camera technique can also be used in combination with methods designed to trap the victim’s card in the ATM. In one such method, the scammers insert a loop of x-ray film or a similar material into the ATM card slot, which will effectively jam the card in the machine when it is entered. The criminals can later retrieve the card by pulling out the hidden loop, retrieve the PIN image from the hidden camera and then easily use the card to steal money from the compromised account.

The banking industry has taken steps to make ATMs more tamper-proof and less prone to skimmer techniques. Nevertheless, canny criminals always attempt to keep pace with new security methods by using ever more sophisticated methods.

Always be vigilant when using an ATM. Examine the device carefully and watch for anything that seems unusual or out of the ordinary.  If something does not seem right don’t use the ATM. And, always be sure to cover the keypad with your hand when entering your pin. This can stop both hidden cameras and watching criminals from recording your pin.

Finally, it is perhaps pertinent at this point to mention another circulating message about ATMs that is NOT true.  Despite the claims in a long-running Internet message, entering your PIN in reverse will NOT call the police.  

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer