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Every year sophisticated thieves steal millions of dollars from consumers by “skimming” their personal account information. Skimming, sometimes called “card cloning,” involves a thief installing a magnetic card reader, or skimmer, over the actual card reader at an ATM or gas pump. 

When you swipe your card, the skimming device steals the information and transmits it to a remote computer. The typical ATM skimmer is a device smaller than a deck of cards that fits over the existing card reader.

Most of the time, the attackers will also place a hidden camera somewhere in the vicinity with a view of the number pad in order to record personal-identification-numbers. The camera may be in the card reader, mounted at the top of the ATM, or even just to the side inside a plastic case holding brochures. Some criminals may install a fake PIN pad over the actual keyboard to capture the PIN directly, bypassing the need for a camera.

Luckily, you can take steps to avoid becoming a victim: 

Check for tampering

  • When you approach an ATM, check for some obvious signs of tampering at the top of the ATM, near the speakers, the side of the screen, the card reader itself, and the keyboard.
  • Use the same ATM as often as possible. Memorize how it looks, so you will know if anything about it looks fishy. 
  • If something looks different, such as a different color or material, graphics that aren’t aligned correctly, or anything else that doesn’t look right, don’t use that ATM.

Wiggle everything

  • Even if you can’t see any visual differences, push and pull at everything.
  • Inspect the ATM. If anything looks unusual—cracked, loose, scratched, or taped—don’t use it.

Protect the PIN

  • Even if you don’t notice a skimmer, when entering your PIN on the keypad, cover the keypad with your free hand to block the view of a spying camera that may have been installed.
  • If the keyboard doesn’t feel right—too thick, perhaps—then there may be a PIN-snatching overlay, so don’t use it.


  • Criminals frequently install skimmers on ATMs that aren’t located in overly busy locations since they don’t want to be observed installing malicious hardware or collecting the harvested data.  
  • Avoid ATMs in popular tourist locations, as they’re common targets. When possible, use indoor ATMs, which are harder for thieves to tamper with.
  • Stop and consider the safety of the ATM before you use it.

If you suspect that an ATM has been tampered with, please contact us at 618-457-3595. For a list of local surcharge-free ATMs along with CO-OP and Allpoint ATM locaters, visit our website.

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