Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Hacking of ATM accounts in European countries

Hacking of ATM accounts in European countries

Old Apr 9th, 2015, 07:53 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 323
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Hacking of ATM accounts in European countries

In the last month a friend's daughter in Oxford and now my son in Berlin have had large sums of money removed from their checking accounts. Both cases involved use of a debit card at a steetside ATM machine as opposed to inside the bank itself.

Would a preloaded debit card be an alternative. Such as the ones sold by Walmart?

Thank you.
mendota98 is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 08:05 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 10,168
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Don't use streetside ATM's.

Don't use debit cards. Use ATM cards. They are different.
Ackislander is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 08:32 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 21,268
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts

Don't use debit cards. Use ATM cards.


My ATM cards would function as debit cards if I chose to use them as such. I ma not aware that I could even ask for a card to be just an ATM card.
Michael is online now  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 08:41 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 6,534
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
In Italy almost all ATMs are streetside. There is not a single ATM in my town that is not streetside (there are 2 bank ATMs and one post office ATM). Even in the nearest city to me (Genoa) there are very, very few ATMs inside banks. I wouldn't even bother looking for one in Italy.

Sorry I don't know the answer to your question about pre-loaded cards.
sandralist is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 08:42 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,969
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
The options you stated involve losing money in different ways.

ATM "hacking": losing money due to illegal activity
Preloaded card: losing money due to legal terms and conditions

Neither is attractive to me.

First, understand how their accounts got compromised. The debit card can be swiped by use of skimming device inserted into the ATM card slot and have a hidden video camera record the PIN sequence. If the debit card leaves your view, it can also be swiped using a handheld reader. Careless retailers (still too many in the US) leave security holes in the retail transaction stream to enable financial info collections. I presume there are many other ways.

You can "reduce" the chances by using the debit card to minimum. Use only to extract cash from an ATM in a place difficult to tamper such as inside the bank with video cameras everywhere. Don't use debit card for purchases. Use CC or cash. With CC, the money has not yet left your hand even if compromised. Don't keep a lot of money in the checkings account in the first place. Use online access to transfer fund from another account NOT accessible from the debit card as needed. You need to turn off the overdraft protection as it allows debit card to punch through into other protected accounts.

Not all banks give ATM cards (usable only for getting cash from ATM. not MC or Visa branded) if you have a checkings account. While some reported ability to withdraw money from savings accounts with an ATM card at their banks, none of my banks allow withdrawing money from abroad except from checkings accounts. And if I want to link it to a checkings account, it has to be a debit card. I suspect there are differences in banking regulations between the states.
greg is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 08:44 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,962
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Sounds like the same things that can happen in the US, crooks put skimmers on machines, that's all.

Well, I have an ATM card, which is NOT a debit card. By my definition, an ATM card cannot be used to buy things. If it can, it's a debit card, by my terms. Banks don't advertise it because they push debit cards on people because they make a lot of money off them. I don't want one and never have had one, I have no use for one as I would never buy things with one. So I had to special request they send me only an ATM card. My bank did, but they aren't going to suggest it. My bank automatically sent me a debit card once without my asking, and I had to call them up and refuse it.

I try to avoid streetside ATMs, also, but sometimes it's impossible. I do always look for anything unusual and I screen my PIN so any camera could not record me punching it in.

A preloaded debit card would, of course, limit your risk, but so would not having much money in your account. Now that may not be practical, of course.

I don't know what difference an ATM vs debit card would make if the issue were people draining bank accounts at ATMs, though. The main disadvantage of debit cards is they can be used to buy things, not just at ATMs, and can be used without PINs in some cases.
Christina is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 08:51 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 720
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
In the last month a friend's daughter in Oxford and now my son in Berlin have had large sums of money removed from their checking accounts.

Seems to have been rather unlucky.
dotheboyshall is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 08:59 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,145
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Many banks will gladly give you an ATM card rather than a debit card if you ask.

I have an account I use for international travel. I don't keep a lot of money in it and use it only to get money out of foreign ATMs. The account does not charge for use of foreign ATMs and reimburses me for any charges levied by the foreign ATM. It also only charges 1% on foreign exchange.

Using debit cards for purchases is unwise, as you do not have the protection against fraud that you have with credit cards. In the US, many people (especially younger people) use debit cards for everything, even a cup of coffee at Starbucks. They don't realize how vulnerable they are to fraud.
Kathie is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 09:55 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,069
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I agree with dotheboyshall that it seems an extraordinary coincidence that this should happen to two people you know.

We all know that some ATMs have been fitted with hidden cameras and card skimmers, but it is not something I have experienced myself in the U.K., nor have I heard about it from anyone I know. Like many people here, I have a single card which I use to withdraw cash and to pay online with reputable organisations where it is cheaper to make a cash payment.

I think it is just an unfortunate coincidence.
chartley is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 10:00 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,317
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Exactly, Kathie. However, I don't know about the "gladly" part.

With my bank (a nationwide one) one can get the ATM only if one is persistent. I have had to argue with my bank for years to keep my plain "vanilla" ATM. No MC or Visa on it. The reps always told me it would not work abroad. It ALWAYS did--and I told them that while I appreciated their sales pitch, perhaps their future customers might appreciate better and more accurate information.

And by the way, that is precisely the reason I do not even bother to call my bank before I travel. The reps just are not in "the know". If the bank for some reason refuses to shoot out money, I just bring back-ups. My husband has a separate ATM (I think he is always expecting a quickie Reno divorce), plus I have another ATM.

I do use ONE debit card, but only for ATM withdrawal: my Schwab MC. Schwab allows me to lower the debit portion to one penny. Ergo, it is of very little use to a thief.

I wuv Schwab.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 10:05 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 14,524
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Funnily enough, since the introduction of a chip to debit cards the rate of skimming has dropped dramatically in Europe. You are in fact more likely to have your card skimmed by the card reader which allows you into the area where an ATM is inside than you are from the ATM, street side or inside.
Banks also tend to not allow the use of cards outside the EU without permission now, since the US is so lax on checking cards and not requiring a pin for payment.

How do you know that the cards were skimmed whilst in Europe and not before they left home?

Since they have both been the victim of skimmers it seems more likely they both used the same machine at home and that is here they were skimmed.
hetismij2 is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 10:21 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 7,231
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
As Christina says, having an ATM card rather than a debit card wouldn't save you from a skimmer.

I have an Italian card which notifies me by SMS whenever it's used for a purchase of more than a stated amount, which I think I've set at €200. The notification is instanteous, so I would notify the bank immediately at the first purchase. It also has a daily limit, which is another protection.

My US card has no such notification system, so I keep almost all the money in the savings account, and have an automatic transfer set up to move money to the checking account, based on the average amount I use in a month. Every so often, I move some back if I'm not spending much, or transfer a little more if I am.

I used to have a prepaid card, but I've got rid of it. It was a pain keeping it refilled, and I think the precautions I use on the other cards are sufficient.
bvlenci is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 10:23 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,317
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Eh--hetismij2, I think probably not.

ATM skims are not that big in the US. I am old as dirt, travel all through the US, and I'm pretty sure nothing ever happened.

As I said above, my ATM card--no warning to my bank, no nothing--worked just dandy in Spain last week, so....
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 10:24 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 7,231
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
It's also been my experience that almost all ATMs in Italy are streetside. I think it's safest to use them during the bank opening hours, because I would assume (or hope) that a bank employee checks them for skimmers each morning, and it would be hard to install one during the day, when the bank is open.

I have seen some ATMs inside banks in Rome.
bvlenci is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 11:09 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 6,534
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I don't think it is so remarkable to know 2 people who had their card compromised. I know 3. The difference may be that I know a lot of people who travel. I also know a fair number of people under 30, and many who are students. Younger people are more often targeted for theft abroad, or they may more frequently use ATMs in train stations, or late at night, or in convenience stores. Some of them may use ATMs more frequently, for smaller amounts of money.

Anyway, there is an implication that somehow the person reporting this is "suspect" or there is no larger issue here -- or the typical "blame the victims" (or else we would need to give up our gung-ho rosy view of travel that helps keep our unacknowledged fears away and lets us feel superior.... etc)
sandralist is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 11:51 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,379
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
My ATM card was hacked at the end of my trip in Italy last week. In fact, it was fraudulently used at a Walgreen's a mile from where I work in Boston. I never actually used the card in Italy (it was my backup) and only use the card to withdraw funds at one of two bank locations at home, so being careful about where you use it apparently doesn't matter in terms of preventing this. The bank froze the card and the charge when they noticed activity in Cambridge during a time I had noted on my account I would be in Italy (pays to let them know!) This is the second time in a year that card has had this happen though, which does give me pause. It has never happened on my other ATM card.

I don't think it matters where you use it whether inside or out. I found it difficult to find an in-bank ATM anywhere I was in Italy, which is one of the reasons why I always carry a funded back-up.
amyb is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 02:35 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 17,249
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
"Don't use streetside ATM's"

Absurd.

Hardly a week in the past 14 years has gone by in which I haven't used a streetside ATM in Oxford.

I've yet to have a problem - here, elsewhere in Britain or anywhere else.

Lots of Oxford streetside ATMs (probably most) have an indoors equivalent: I've never seen the point of bothering.

The poster would be providing a real public service by publicising which ATM she believes was compromised - and why.

Otherwise, I'm going to assume that stories about what happened to the son of a friend of a stranger giving vague accounts of a problem I've got about a thousand examples that indicate doesn't exist are simply silly gossip.
flanneruk is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 04:53 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 36,549
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
To the OP: any idea how those thieves got the pins? I assume some sort of scanning device was used to obtain it and if that is the case i honestly don't know what could have been done about it.
Dukey1 is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 10:07 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 720
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I don't think it is so remarkable to know 2 people who had their card compromised. I know 3.

The point being made is that most people know no-one, one at the most, who have had their card compromised.
dotheboyshall is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2015, 10:33 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,112
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
When we travel we use a bank ATM (not Debit card) that is tied to one account that is not our primary bank account and we only keep money in the account for trips. We take most of the money out when we get home and put into our regular accounts and put money we think we will need into that account shortly before we travel. Our bank recommended this before a trip to Europe several years ago and we now use that account only for ATM withdrawals on trips. We never use a debit card ever and don't use the ATM at home either.
Cali is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

FODOR'S VIDEO