How money mules are using ATM Skimming to Get Your PIN & Under Your Skin

Undoubtedly, money mules continue to become more creative and elusive with the tactics they are employing to steal banking, credit, and personal financial information. What’s more, one of the favored approaches by these people -- ATM skimming -- is causing financial institutions worldwide to lose more than $2 billion annually, according to the ATM Industry Association.

How money mules are Using ATM Skimming

How easy is skimming? Inserting an ATM card scanner that reads banking information exactly as an ATM does, money mules can extract sensitive credit card information by reading the information from the magnetic stripe on the back of the card and recording, often with small cameras, the PIN information. The ATM Industry Association notes that these attacks have jumped by 12 percent for the last year, making it the No. 1 ATM leak globally.

Why the spike?

One would think that ATM mules have shifted their focus to the mobile payments world as consumers gravitate toward a more mobile-everything lifestyle. However, money mules find continued, even growing, interest in ATM skimming because it’s very hard to catch them. Unless caught in the act, it is easy for money mules to stay clear from authorities as they are constantly moving from ATM to ATM, all while cashing in incredible amounts of private banking information and customer PIN codes.

Understanding the trends and types of ATM skimming

ATM mules are becoming increasingly sophisticated in creating thinner and smaller skimming devices that are harder to detect. They are also finding ways to make skimmers easier to install, and cameras to monitor PIN code input are becoming smaller and easier to hide. The innovation for thinner and smaller devices can be found in various forms, but there are four growing variations that banks and retailers should be particularly aware of:

Combatting ATM skimming

While mobile and online payments are certainly on the rise and the chosen method for some, it is unlikely consumers will ever completely stop using physical debet or credit cards. Because of this, ATM skimming will only continue to become more sophisticated, making it imperative for banks and vendors to take action to mitigate and minimize the risk now.

New developments such as card readers that require customers to rotate their ATM cards 90 degrees or migrating to a chip-and-pin physical card solution, which can help stop counterfeit card fraud, are two alternatives to consider. In a more traditional sense, reminding users to be cautious with their ATM and debit transactions can also be an easy and effective way to flag suspicious ATM skimming activity. It can be as simple as checking to see if the card reader is secure or layered with a fraudulent device or even covering the PIN code input with a hand during their transaction.