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In this constantly evolving world, both for the good and bad of all including advances in electrical, mechanical, computational and then down to the instantly accessible knowledge and fast procurement of components ordered online via the world wide, it can seem like a constant struggle to keep up with the world around us, let alone those that could well be out to get us, or our money, held digital or otherwise.

It is one thing being robbed at knife or gun point at the ATM, you would definitely be aware of this, well how about if you used a machine or merchant, with an unknown not immediately noticeable debit being transacted?

I am referring to the act of ‘Skimming’, this is a fraudulent way of obtaining debit/credit cards and accompanying details, including the pin number. Devices can be attached to an ATM machine quite easily in very little time, the fraudsters do this by making an identical looking front plate with a card reader, camera and near field detector – with cloning capacities (they steal your contactless NFC credentials to program onto a blank bank card with a computer and card writing software/hardware..)

So, when you legitimately get cash from an ATM which unfortunately might have a skimming device attached, you insert the card (the skimmer immediately then reads the magnetic strip, chip data and collects/stores the long card number with start/end date, then a separate tiny camera pointing towards the back of the card photographs the security code and your signature.

This happens very quickly with just one pass of the card through the skimming device on its route the actual proper ATM card slot. You then make the withdrawal and get your card back and cash as normal, then go about your way.

You can imagine in a busy environment or hotspot, a number of cards and data could be acquired, this does happen frequently every day around us in some cities worldwide.

These devices are so well made that it is quite difficult to detect with an untrained eye to notice a machine that has been compromised, the micro-electronics with pinhole cameras pose no problem in creating a slim fitting device.

If you look carefully it is possible to notice a thin layer of likely molded and formed aluminium protruding from the machines normal shape. If you notice a piece that could be peeled away, be wary. You could do the good citizen thing and make the staff aware, but with a lot of machines being placed in shopfronts – the owners of the store often do not own the ATM, they do get a commission but in certain situations, that is about as far as the fact they would be interested in.

It is best to use ATMs in well lit areas, preferably covered by CCTV for your personal safeguarding, be wary of any odd looking devices or attachments. Cover your PIN with your spare hand whilst inputting the code with your fingers, this prevents any skimming device camera or someone looking over your shoulder from gaining your PIN.

If using a now pretty much outdated method of manually recording the card numbers via a carbon copy swipe device, as well as inserting into a point of sale reader, make sure the card goes nowhere out of site (if the machine on the desk happens to be on the side of the vendor), this prevents them skimming with a small pocketable device.

Ok, so now we are getting somewhere, there is just one last chip and pin card dilemma.

Today, using Near Field Communications, cardnapping villains can just walk past you with a mobile device stealing your details to then clone to a new card for use. Imagine being on a packed tube train, much the same environment as the exploited ATM, free for the picking. They can very quickly write the details to a blank card with a laptop/card writer and be spending your dough in no time at all with the copied card and contactless payments. (The stolen data can be run via an app on a mobile phone too, this lessens the vulnerability in being exposed with the copied card).

The solution to this is quite simple, get an RFID blocking wallet, I like the range of Travando slimline wallets such as the ‘Seattle’, these are readily available for a good price on Amazon.

I hope the tips above allowed you to glean some knowledge and awareness about your surroundings when using a cash machine or vendor.

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