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How can you recognize an ATM skimming device?

ATM PIN entry, protect your PIN
August 12, 2016

By Pam Leibfried

One of the steps we encourage our members take to protect themselves from fraud is to pay attention to their surroundings when using their credit and debit cards in public. We want our members to protect their PINs from the prying eyes of other people and of cameras.

The best way to protect your PIN is to shield the keypad while you enter your PIN. This should be your general MO whenever you’re entering your PIN into an ATM – or the keypad at a store checkout or gas pump. That way, the person behind you in line can’t see your PIN. Covering your keystrokes also gives you protection from cameras installed near the ATM.

ATM skimming devices in action

Another key way to avoid fraud when using your debit card is to be on the lookout for skimming devices. But how many of us know how to recognize an ATM skimmer when we see one?

Sadly, most of us don’t.

Despite years of hearing dire warnings to watch for skimming devices, I didn’t know what a skimmer looked like until I started working at Alliant and attended a fraud training class. And I’m willing to bet that a lot of our members are in the very same boat.

What ATM Skimming Devices Look Like

To make it easier for you to recognize a skimming device when you see one, we’ve found a couple of great resources that will show you what the most common types of skimmers look like; it’s much easier to recognize a skimming device after you’ve seen one in action.

Check out the below video originally shared on CBS Morning:

If you ever notice something that you think is a skimmer, be sure to notify the store or bank where you see the suspicious device. That way, they can check right away and hopefully save someone else from being skimmed and scammed.

The FBI also recently published an article on ATM skimming that includes photos of several types of skimmers and an infographic explaining what to look for in detail. If you want to learn more about skimming devices, consider this your next stop.


Pam Leibfried is a marketing content specialist whose love of words led to a writing and editing career. After a brief stint teaching English, she transitioned to corporate communications and spent 20 years at The Nielsen Company before joining Alliant’s content development team. Early in her work life, Pam’s friend Matt explained the benefits of a 401(k) and her dad encouraged her to start a Roth IRA. Their good counsel prompted her to prioritize retirement savings, which just might enable her to retire early so she can read more and live out the slogan on her fave T-shirt: “I have a retirement plan: I plan on quilting.”