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Daily Q&A: How can I keep "skimming" devices from stealing my bank card information?

Bankrate.com reports that scam artists are using "skimming" devices at ATMs to steal card information. What tips do you have to protect myself from having my debit card information stolen?

The Better Business Bureau of West Florida says skimming devices can go unnoticed because identity thieves tamper with ATMs in various ways to steal debit card numbers and personal identification numbers or "PINs." In a few seconds, a thief can install cameras over the keypad or a device over the card reader. ATMs aren't the only hot spots, credit card swipers at gas pumps and retailers can be tampered with as well.

"Skimming devices can blend in seamlessly with the ATM machine," said Karen Nalven, president of BBB serving West Florida. "If you use an ATM, it is important to monitor your accounts closely so you can quickly detect any fraudulent activity on your card and minimize your losses."

Here's what the BBB suggests in helping to protect yourself:

• Protect your PIN. When entering your PIN, cover the keypad with your other hand to prevent any cameras from catching your digits. False keypads placed over the real keypad are also a way thieves acquire PIN numbers so if the keypad looks different, move on.

• Give it a wiggle. Skimming devices are often false panels attached to the ATM—such as where you put your card into the machine. If parts of the ATM look damaged or different, give it a wiggle. Also look for new or suspiciously placed cameras and unusual signage. Don't hesitate to walk away and use another ATM if it doesn't feel right.

• Be picky with your ATMS. Avoid using ATMs in poorly lighted or low trafficked areas. Experts often recommend choosing a bank ATM over standalone ATMs in public places. Not only do identity thieves attach devices to legitimate ATMs to steal numbers. They will also place their own phony ATMS in public places.

• Keep an eye on your statements. The most vigilant person can still fall victim to ATM skimmers, and it's important to always keep a close eye on your accounts—particularly the itemized breakdown of charges and debits—so that you can quickly report any suspicious activity on your account.

• Report fraud immediately. Report any fraudulent activity to your bank as soon as you discover it. Consumer protections for debit cards vary but depend largely on when you report the fraudulent activity. If you wait too long to report the fraud, your bank account could be cleaned out and your bank might not reimburse you.

Question for the Consumer's Edge? Send it to ipenn@sptimes.com or twitter.com/consumers_edge. Questions are answered only in this daily feature.

Daily Q&A: How can I keep "skimming" devices from stealing my bank card information? 11/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 5:34pm]
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