The United States Secret Service has sent a warning to financial institutions about an uptick in a form of ATM skimming that involves drilling “cupcake sized” holes in ATMs to insert card skimmer components inside, effectively making them invisible.

Once the scammers have implanted their device, they’ll cover the hole with some sort of metal or plastic cover, often including the bank logo. This means that a perfectly normal looking ATM might be helping cyber-criminals steal your financial data. You can read all about it at Krebs on Security.

Protecting Yourself From These Skimmers

Since these skimmers are hard to detect, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

  • Don’t Use The ATM
    This is the easiest thing you can do. If you need to pull out cash, use the bank’s indoor ATMs (the ones that are closed off when the bank is closed) or work directly with a teller. Human interaction is good for the soul!
  • Use bank-owned ATMs in well-lit areas in or on the bank’s building.
    Bank owned ATMs are more likely to have tamper detection systems and alarms that prevent these types of attacks. Also, these ATMs are typically heavily covered by security cameras and monitoring systems to prevent intrusion.
  • Use your hand to safeguard your PIN entry.
    Criminals have been known to install false handguards on ATM pin pads that have tiny pinhole cameras in them, allowing them to steal your pin. To circumvent this, simple cover your PIN entry with your other hand. Check out this example of a hidden camera being used to steal pin numbers. This video also demonstrates the benefits of shielding your PIN.

At the end of the day, protecting yourself from these attacks comes down to common sense. Carefully inspect the ATM for anything that looks out of place. When in doubt, find another ATM!