Ticket machine skimming fraud threat?

Credit and debit card 'skimming' - where your card details are unlocked and stolen using a small electronic device - used to be the preserve of ATMs.

Now the practice is being adopted for parking ticket meters and even transport ticket machines, claims new research. Pay-at-pump petrol stations are also being targeted. How serious is the issue for the UK?


We can relax a bit - for the moment. The situation is worse in the US where there has been reluctance to adopt chip-and-pin technology, claims research from European ATM Security Team. In contrast, European banks have moved to technology adopted by Visa, MasterCard and Europay, known as 'EMV'.

Algorithms are embedded in a chip on these Visa, MasterCard and Europay cards, making them difficult to clone cards for use at EMV terminals. However, stolen data can still be successfully exported to the US and used on cloned cards, enabling cash to be taken out of ATMs.

Claw or sledge hammer

"Skimmer scammers who steal card data from European ATM users tend to ship the stolen card data to buyers or co-conspirators in the United States," said security expert Brian Krebbs in a recent blog, "where the data is encoded onto fabricated cards and used to pull cash out of US ATMs."

Two countries, claim European ATM Security Team, have seen a recent rise in skimming from parking ticket machines (though these countries remain nameless). Bluetooth devices are also increasingly being used to transmit stolen card and PIN data wirelessly, it's claimed.

There's also been a rise in ATM 'cash claws'. This is where a metal 'claw' is pushed into an ATM cash dispenser once the machine shutter is opened, forcing out more cash than ordered. Crude but sometimes effective. There's also the sledge hammer option, not to mention exposed software vulnerabilities.

Avoid cash machine fraud

It's important to brush up on good ATM etiquette. Below are some tips from LINK, the UK's cash machine network, on how to avoid falling victim to cash machine fraud.

1. Protect your PIN
• The simplest step of all to minimise the chances of falling victim to fraud is to shield the keypad when you enter your PIN. This will protect your PIN from a shoulder-surfer, and also if a criminal has set up a hidden camera that is filming the keypad.

• Some losses at UK cash machines are still, unfortunately, the result of PINs being written down and kept in a purse or wallet. So, the other important advice remains: 'never write down your PIN'.

2. Choosing a cash machine
• Be aware of others around you. If someone close to the cash machine is behaving suspiciously, or makes you feel uncomfortable, go to another machine.

• If you suspect that a skimming device has been attached to a cash machine, inform staff within the bank or, if this is not possible, inform the police.

3. Using a cash machine
• Be aware of your surroundings. If someone starts crowding or watching you, cancel the transaction, preferably before you've entered your PIN, and go to another machine.

• Stand close to the cash machine and always shield the keypad effectively, for example by using your free hand, to avoid anyone seeing you enter your PIN.

• If your card gets jammed or retained by the machine report this as soon as possible to your card issuer.

If you are a victim of card fraud you are protected through legislation, which states that you will not be liable for losses unless you have acted fraudulently or without reasonable care.

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