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Thin ATM skimmers new concern

By Allison Ross ·
Friday, July 11, 2014
Posted: 6 am ET

This season's crop of ATM skimmers is going slim and mini, and the vogue style is concerning fraud experts and banks.

The European ATM Security Team, which collects information on ATM fraud, this month published its latest report, which noted that the new mini-skimmer has been found by a member country.

© Thomas Frey/dpa/Corbis

This photo shows an ATM skimmer from the past. Thieves have since updated the technology. © Thomas Frey/dpa/Corbis

Brian Krebs, a security blogger and fraud expert, wrote about the report in his blog, noting that "while most card skimmers are made to sit directly on top of the existing card slot, these newer mini-skimmers fit snugly inside the card reader throat, obscuring most of the device."

In short, while ATM skimmers have been around a long time, these littler skimmers are harder to spot. That creates even more of a headache for those trying to keep fraudsters away from customers' money.

ATM skimming "continues to be a significant source of pain" for financial institutions and lucrative business for organized crime rings, says Julie Conroy, a research director with Aite Group who covers banking and fraud.

Indeed, a recent survey by the ATM Industry Association found that skimming was seen by industry members as by far the largest security threat.

Conroy says she's seeing an increase in technology to combat skimmers, such as video cameras that alert security if people are standing for an unusually long time in front of an ATM, since that could be a sign they may be inserting a skimmer. She says more banks are also doing regular physical checks of branch ATMs to check for skimmers.

Move to EMV

While much of Europe is moving to cards with chips, the U.S. has not yet done so in any great way. Krebs, in his blog, says that means the magnetic stripe data stolen from ATM skimmers in Europe will be shipped "over to thieves here in the U.S., who then can encode the stolen card data onto fresh (chipless) cards and pull cash out of the machines here and in Latin America."

Conroy says the U.S.'s migration to EMV cards (for Europay, MasterCard and Visa "will certainly help over time, but MasterCard's liability shift at the ATM doesn't take place until October 2016, and Visa's is not until the following year, so mag-stripe-reliant ATMs will continue to be the norm for some time."

Do you check for anything out of place when you go to the ATM?

For another security threat facing ATMs, check out "Banks warned about ATM attacks."

Follow me on twitter: @allisonsross.

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August 21, 2014 at 2:30 pm

fingerprints can be counterfitted. A biometric hand reader, like the ones used at many hi-tech facilities, requires a living hand.