Skimming — Not Just for Your Lattes Anymore

By Katie Clark, Regulatory and Compliance Analyst

Last week, Oregon financial institutions were alerted to an ATM skimming case that impacted credit unions up and down the I-5 corridor. The fraud that resulted from the skimming devices appeared as far away as California, but fraudulent transactions were also reported locally in Oregon and Washington.

While skimming is nothing new to financial institutions, it is always important to take note when a new ring of skimmers pops up. Credit unions can take measures to prevent and detect skimming devices, but you have to know what to look for.

Unfortunately, it is getting harder to detect skimming devices as criminals improve upon their devices. However, this should not deter the credit union from keeping an eye on its ATMs and door readers. Here are some steps the credit union can take:

  • Try to check the ATM fascia as often as possible. If devices are placed over your card reader or keyboard, gently tugging on these areas may reveal the devices. It may be worth checking the ATM as often as once or twice a day to ensure no skimmer was placed on the machine since the last check.
  • Keep an eye on vehicles that are sitting within a close proximity to the machine but appear to have no apparent business purpose.
  • Regularly check your ATM camera footage, if possible.
  • Be familiar with how your machine looks and what is around it. If a new brochure rack suddenly appears—determine if it is supposed to be there or not.
  • If you do suspect or detect a skimming device on one of your machines, contact your local police department.

Another great step you can take is to help educate your members. Anyone that uses a credit or debit card can encounter a skimmer because they are everywhere—at the ATM, gas station, grocery store, and so on. If your member knows what to look for, they can help protect themselves as well.  A few good tips for your members:

  • When possible, use machines that you are familiar with and try to remember what the machine looks like. Know if your ATM has a card reader that protrudes from the ATM. If it normally does not and you suddenly see one, this could be an indication that the machine is compromised.
  • If it seems more difficult than usual for the machine to accept your card, there may be a problem.
  • Tug lightly on the card reader and keypad. If they remove easily—there is a problem.
  • Always cover the pin pad when you type in your pin number.
  • If you are concerned, contact the financial institution.

Additionally, credit unions can refer to Krebs on Security, a great website regarding skimming devices. Brian Krebs is a security blogger who writes extensively about various types of skimming devices and schemes. Krebs on Security can help credit unions become familiar with the skimming devices they should keep an eye out for.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790,

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