ATM Card Skimmers – Hidden in Plain Sight and Hard to Spot

Recently ran across this article at KrebsonSecurity analyzing common ATM skimmers that they found installed around the city and I was amazed at how well hidden they were — I’m almost certain I’ve used an ATM or gas pump with a skimmer on it now that I look at these.

One common theme that seems to exist with these skimmers is that they require a camera to capture the PIN number being inserted. The skimmer itself will read the magnetic data off the card, but without the PIN it’s useless — and that’s where the camera comes into play.

In some cases it’s a bit easier to spot, like the pin-hole in the card reader above, but in other cases, it’s in a place you wouldn’t normally look at while using an ATM:

The one thing I could thing of to try and combat this is to hover/lean over the keypad when typing in your number so even if there is a camera, it can’t catch the keystrokes.

Krebson also recommends not using ATMs in more quiet parts of town that could have been modified — using high traffic areas as it would be more problematic for thieves to install the surveillance equipment unnoticed. I’d say be wary of any machine you are using and look for “odd” additions to the machine — like a card slot that seems cluttered or like some of the original markings of the ATM are being covered up by some addition to it.

Here are some more shots of skimmers in action, I can barely spot them except for something “off” about SOME of the ATMs that have them — not even all of them. Stay alert out there:

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8 Responses to ATM Card Skimmers – Hidden in Plain Sight and Hard to Spot

  1. Greg January 22, 2010 at 11:31 am #


  2. SamuraiMarine January 22, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    Excellent information. My wife works for a credit union and I am sure she would like to see this.


    • Riyad Kalla January 22, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

      Samurai, have they ever spotted a skimmer on any of their machines outside the building before? After reading about these things I get the impression they get installed pretty easily (few seconds) and I don’t know how long they leave them in service… if battery life is any indication, a few hours to a day at most?


  3. anonymous January 30, 2010 at 6:15 am #

    Good info. Ask someone to proofread next time.

  4. floslib February 7, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    I saw an article showing that not even a camera is necessary to capture a PIN. All they need is another overlay device that goes over the keypad and logs your keystrokes. They blend in just as well as the ones that go over the card readers from what I saw. I’d post a link, but I don’t remember where I saw it. In any case, just be watchful for those as well.

    • Riyad Kalla February 8, 2010 at 8:53 am #

      floslib, did they look like anything identifiable? like glossy tape covering the keypad or something?


  1. The Buzz Media - January 22, 2010

    ATM Card Skimmers – Hidden in Plain Sight and Hard to Spot –

  2. ATM Card Skimmer Crimes Rampant in South East | The Buzz Media - July 14, 2010

    […] We reported on ATM Card Skimmers in the past. It was amazing to most readers (me too!) how “normal” the addition of a card skimmer on your average ATM looks. Of course they are manufactured to slip onto the equipment unnoticed, but there is always that hope that you are attentive enough to catch such a thing. […]

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