Content Hub Resize (970X460)

Picture Lesego, a regular guy who uses the ATM outside his local grocery store every Friday after work. One evening, he inserts his card, types in his PIN, and withdraws cash for the weekend. What Lesego doesn’t know is that a skimming device, cleverly disguised to look like a part of the ATM, has captured his card information. A tiny camera, positioned above the keypad, has recorded his PIN. By the time Lesego notices fraudulent transactions on his account, it’s too late. The criminals have already taken as much cash as his daily limits will allow.

Lesego has fallen victim to ATM skimming, a form of cybercrime that continues to challenge financial security worldwide. Unfortunately, skimmers, which are often no bigger than a deck of cards and able to blend in with the ATM’s design, have become more sophisticated with advancements in technology. 3D printing allows criminals to create custom overlays that are almost indistinguishable from real ATM components. These overlays hide the malicious hardware that reads the magnetic stripe of every card that passes through it. Wireless technology like Bluetooth also enables real-time data transmission to a fraudster nearby, who can then clone cards or make unauthorised transactions almost immediately.

The ease that these skimming kits can be acquired online adds to the problem. They can be purchased by anyone with minimal technical knowledge and deployed quickly, making it a widespread issue. Enhanced ATM features, including EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) chip technology and anti-skimming devices, help prevent these criminal efforts. However, since the adoption of these technologies isn’t universal, the risk remains.

The best defence against ATM skimming is public awareness and vigilance. Here are some tips to protect yourself:

  • Inspect the ATM. Before using an ATM, look for any signs of tampering. If something seems off or if the card reader moves, avoid using it and immediately inform your bank.
  • Cover the keypad. Always cover the keypad with your other hand when entering your PIN. This isn’t only about people near you or behind you seeing your pin. If there is a hidden camera, you will prevent your PIN from being recorded.
  • Use ATMs in secure locations. ATMs inside bank branches or in well-lit, busy areas tend to be safer because anyone seen interfering with an ATM will immediately look suspicious. Skimmers often choose ATMs in quitter locations so that they will not be seen while installing skimmers and cameras.
  • Monitor your account. This is good advice against all forms of fraud. Regularly checking your daily bank balance for any unauthorised transactions will ensure you identify suspicious activity quickly, limiting how much money criminals can steal from you.
  • Go cashless. Most stores accept electronic payments and do not require cash. Where possible, avoid using cash — and by default, ATMs — and make use of safer, cashless alternatives.

Stay safe

The battle against ATM skimming is ongoing. EMV cards, which introduced smart chips to improve security against fraud, are an example of how payment technology is becoming more sophisticated. Fraudsters may be leveraging new technology, but so are banks and other financial institutions. However, ultimately, the best defence against cybercriminals is to always be on your guard and on the lookout for fraudsters. 

Stay vigilant against ATM skimming threats. Explore additional security insights on Sasfin for comprehensive protection.


About the Author

Del van Rooyen
Chief Information Security Officer, Sasfin Holdings Limited

> }

Offcanvas Title

Default content goes here.