ATM scam

Old Aug 26th, 2006, 05:10 PM
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ATM scam

We were the victims of a scam involving automatic teller machines this summer. Sometime during the use of our Cirrus/Star-based debit card in ATM machines in Milan, Siena or Florence, our card information was obtained unscrupulously by someone. We only used the debit card, drawing funds from our checking account back home, to obtain euros only. We used credit cards for purchases. Two months after we had returned from Europe, and during our normal reconciliation of our checking account statement, we found that someone had made numerous ATM cash withdrawals from our account from ATM machines located throughout Italy: over 15 ATM withdrawals totalling over $4000! We were aghast, and immediately notified our bank as soon as we got our bank statement. After an investigation, we got our money back. Apparently, there are many ways thieves can scam ATM machines: just Google "ATM scams". I do not know how to protect oneself against our mishap because we never lost our debit cards in any of the ATM machines. The usual warning to shield the ATM keypad with your body to discourage prying eyes may help. Finally, as suggested by the readership of the Fodor message boards, we had notified all of our credit card companies and our bank of the dates and duration of our vacation before we left.
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 05:45 PM
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Boy, that really makes me nervous. We will be in 2 of those cities ourselves soon............ Sure makes you wonder how that could have happened. sounds like you were careful enough.... You said you got the funds back. Do banks guarantee ATM withdrawals, like credit cards do?
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 05:59 PM
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First I've heard of this. Did you use Bank ATM machines only? I've heard of scams where they put a machine over a machine and copy your credit card data & pin.
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 06:00 PM
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This is happening all over the US too.

The thieves put some sort of gadget into the ATM slot that keeps a record of your card and your PIN, then retrieve it later use it other places.

To avoid this happening use ATM machines that are actually inside a bank or other place of business or in busy places with security like ariports or train stations. Avoid the ones that are open to the street in areas that may be deserted at night - when the theives can access them to put in these gadgets and later retrieve them.)
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 06:15 PM
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Yes, use only ATM's attached to a bank, especially with this new method of "skimming" with thieves inserting a reading device into the card slot.

If you must use a free standing ATM, then run your finger along the card slot before you put your card in. The sleeve has a couple of tiny prongs that the thieves need to get it out of the slot, and you will be able to feel them.

I also check my account online frequently....both at home and abroad from a net cafe. That way I would notice suspicious activity right away.

I also keep all my travel funds in an account not attached to my ATM/debit card and transfer only a certain amount to the ATM account online every couple of days. That way if someone has my card or number, the account won't have all my money in it and only a limited amount can be stolen before the account is drained.
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 06:16 PM
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This is by no means limited to Europe.

The best way to protect yourself is to regularly change your pin (the way you are forced to change your password to log onto many office computer systems).

There is a turn around time between when they collect your info and make a duplicate card. If you change your pin monthly, hopefully by the time the theif goes to use your duplicate card, the pin he collected will be out of date.
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 06:34 PM
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We used only ATM machines which were associated with banks, but on the weekends most were closed. We tried to shield the ATM keypad with our body each time we punched in our PIN, and were wary of anyone standing too close by. However, thieves can mount thin membranes over the ATM keypad facade, and somehow obtain your PIN, and/or insert something into the card slot to obtain information off the magnetic strip of your card. It sounds like the thieves are very sophisticated. How do you guard against these things? I don't know. It now seems that before you use an ATM, you have to check if you can pull off a plastic membrane off the face of the ATM machine, and/or pull out some device out of the card slot!

With respect to debit card liability, I believe that if you report that your card is lost or stolen as soon as you notice it, and if you report discrepancies in your account as soon as you receive your monthly statement, or view it online, then your liability is lessened significantly. I think each bank words the user liability of debit cards according to federal regulations.

Our little ATM adventure does not deter us from ever going back to Italy. Far from it; Milan, Siena and Florence were fabulous, especially during the World Cup Soccer matches! We will return! However, I think next time we will set up another checking account from which to debit ATM cash in the usual manner, but only deposit that amount which we'll use on that particular vacation. After we return, we'll zero out the account. That's the plan, but we don't know how successful it will be. Hope this helps.
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 07:20 PM
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Furthermore, if you transfer only a certain amount every few days into your ATM account, from a non-associated account, via a net cafe while travling, you don't run the risk of losing all your vacation funds while traveling in the event your information is stolen. In other words, they can only take the little bit you have in that account at the time.
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 07:21 PM
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I meant to add that I'm glad to hear this hasn't detoured you from returning to Bella Italia!
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 08:31 PM
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If you use a public computer, a wireless connection while travelling with your laptop (hotel, airport, library, internet cafe etc) you are also ask risk of having your personal information stolen.

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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 08:47 PM
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Good point, LoveItaly, but we hear much less about public computer scams than the ATM scams that are so prevalent. Whenever I do banking online at a public computer I always delete all history and cookies on the computer before I leave. I know there are still hackers that could probably retrive my banking info on occassion, but there is yet another reason I check my account frequently.

There really are various ways we can protect ourselves and we all just have to do what works best in our own situations....and hope we can stay a step ahead of the thieves.
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 09:11 PM
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Thanks for the info ediwamoto. I have refused to get a debit card at one of my banks because I thought that it was easier to pilfer from a debit card than from a regular ATM card. Also I wasn't aware that the bank would refund theft losses. I'll have to take another look at my bank's debit card rules.
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 09:43 PM
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I don't know Statia, I am certainly not a "brain surgeon" when it comes to computers etc. But I have a couple of family members that are quite involved with security regarding computers. They have advised me to have one checking a/c to use while travelling and to not transfer money on a public computer or on a laptop via a wireless connection from another bank account due to the sneaky way hackers can pick up your various account information.

I have a friend in Italy that works for a large finacial institution and has gone to many conferences including one this year in NY. He has said the same thing.

So, I will have one checking a/c which is for travel money. I will use that a/c for ATM withdrawals. If for some reason that a/c ends up not having enough money in it while I am travelling I will have my daughter transfere money from another a/c to the travel a/c. I won't transfere money via a public computer. And I never take my laptop with me so that wouldn't be possible to do in any case. A confusing world with so much to think about! Regarding ATM withdrawals, I use ATM's at banks during the time the bank is open for business.

ediwamoto, I am sorry you had this problem and thanks for letting everyone know. I sure don't know how to protect oneself 100% either. I am sure glad your bank a/c was credited for the money that was stolen from you.
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 05:06 AM
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AX Travelers Check Card. Last posting, very good. A separate account will limit possible losses. Another advises leaving the debit card at home!
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 05:21 AM
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Hello,

Sorry you had such a bad experience but I hope the trip was nice.

I have a seperate account set up just for travel. It only has the funds in it that I will need for the trip. This way no one has access to any of my other accounts and can only take out a set amount of funding. This has worked out very well for us in the past. I still always let the bank know where and when I am travelling and raise the daily limit for withdrawls. This way they won't think the card is stolen and I can take out larger amounts at one time and limit the transaction fees to just a couple a week. Also, save all of your receipts.

Hope this helps
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 07:23 AM
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"If you use a public computer, a wireless connection while travelling with your laptop (hotel, airport, library, internet cafe etc) you are also ask risk of having your personal information stolen."

DO NOT use public computers for sensitive transactions. Criminals can install programs that record your keystrokes and play them back later. Clearing the cache etc. doesn't change this.

Wireless connections are NOT intrinsically more vulnerable than wired connections. From a security point of view, there is no difference between them. Your sensitive information is encrypted by the browser before it becomes visible to the network in either case. The rules are:

Use a firewall.
Run a virus blocker.
Turn off File Sharing.
Don't open email attachments. Period.
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Old Aug 27th, 2006, 07:38 AM
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About ATM cards and PINs.

Last spring, several [hundred?] thousand cards were compromised because (in blatant disregard of programming security rules) point-of-sale computers had written copies of Personal ID Numbers to disk files. These POS machines were then hacked and the account data distributed all over eastern Europe.

So guarding your PIN against prying eyes isn't a panacea. Much better to never enter it into the PINpad at the gas station or Kwik-E-Mart. The above advice about only taking cash from indoor ATMs inside banks is nonetheless sound.
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