Thrifty Spending Issue 66

FEATURE ARTICLE: How to spot ATM skimmers

Skimmers applied to card readers (think fake card readers on top of the real ones) are designed to capture debit card magnetic stripe data, while tiny wireless cameras or overlays to existing personal identification number pads are designed to capture PIN information. Once thieves capture such data, they can use it to make fake cards or sell the information on the Internet to others.

Besides learning what skimming devices look like, consumers can also employ other strategies to spot the devices, according to John Pearce, director of commercial marketing for banking-financial and government systems at the security company ADT, which sells antiskimming technology. He recently shared the following strategies with us.

Perform an A.T.M. Inspection
Before swiping your card, Mr. Pearce recommended that consumers examine A.T.M.’s for tell-tale signs of skimmers like visible glue marks or residue around the reader or PIN pad. Also, look for loose parts (tug on the card reader, say, to see if it comes off or if there is a loose appendage recently added to the machine). “You want to inspect the card reader slots first and foremost,” Mr. Pearce said. “If there’s any residual of glue around the PIN pad area or around the card slot, there’s a pretty good chance there was skimming activity in the recent past.”

Perform an A.T.M. Area Inspection Mr. Pearce also recommended that consumers look around the A.T.M. area to see if anything looks out of the ordinary. For instance, is there a cola can or pack of cigarettes on the top of the A.T.M. or promotional literature nearby? If so, look closely to make sure there’s no miniature camera hidden in such spots. Check the ceiling above the A.T.M. for such cameras as well. While legitimate security cameras for the banks will be clearly overt and visible, these cameras will be hidden and about three-fourths of an inch square in size, Mr. Pearce said.

Cover Your PIN When you type in your PIN, Mr. Pearce recommended using your other hand to shield the keypad to block it from video cameras hidden in the light above the keypad or elsewhere. This can also help protect your information from “shoulder surfers,” people who Mr. Pearce said stand off to the side to try to record your PIN.

Know Which A.T.M.’s to Pay Special Attention To
Mr. Pearce recommended being extra vigilant and cautious when using A.T.M.’s at heavily trafficked areas like malls, airports and gas stations. In many cases, he said, skimming can go unnoticed in such locations because there aren’t any personnel monitoring the machines. In addition, if you’re having problems using a machine, avoid any offers from help from strangers. “They know you are having a problem because they caused the problem to take place in the first place,” Mr. Pearce said, noting that they would ask for your personal identification number as they try to enter your card.

Know When to Use Your Credit Card
In situations where your card goes out of your line of sight (like at a restaurant or hotel), Mr. Pearce recommended using a credit card rather than a debit card.

MONEY SAVING TIP: Clean your car’s air filter.

A clean air filter can improve your gas mileage by up to 7%, saving you more than $100 for every 10,000 miles you drive in an average vehicle. Plus, cleaning your air filter is easy to do in just a few minutes – just follow the instructions in your automobile’s manual and you’re good to go.

DID YOU KNOW….that your credit can affect your job search?

According to a survey released by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2010, 13% of the companies surveyed check the credit reports of all candidates and 47% check some candidates.

Employment related credit checks are legal in most states and the information that is provided to employers is limited.  No credit scores are divulged only your report.  Employers look at long term trends, not necessarily if you missed a payment or were late with your credit card payments a few times.

In order for an employer to check your report, they need your signature giving them permission.  You are entitled to deny them access, but that may cost you the job. If you have serious credit issues, it is recommended that you be upfront about them and the reasons why these issues exist.

Regardless of whether you are hired or not, it is a good idea to take care of the negative information on your report.  You may not be concerned with having to get a loan, but what if you were to lose your job tomorrow?  Straightening negative marks on your credit report takes time; don’t wait until the last minute.

For assistance on how to resolve disputes on your credit report, click on

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