Tag Archives: ATM card

National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Beware of Skimmers!

Lets face it; technology is everywhere in our daily lives. So much so that we have gotten to the point where we use it without a thought. Hackers and thieves depend on a certain level of laziness to victimize people using card skimmers.

Everyday millions of Africans-Americans pull out their debit or credit card and swipe it. We swipe it for gas, food, clothes, medicine, every conceivable purchase. But are we aware of how vulnerable your money, and even your financial life, is when you swipe your card?

One of the most prolific, and easiest,  cyber crimes is the use of skimmers. A skimmer is a small device that is almost invisible to the naked eye. It is placed inside credit card readers. When you swipe your card through the reader the device records the information on your credit/debit card and transmits it to criminals. These skimmers can be found anywhere you use a credit card. The gas station, a convenience store or even an ATM. As I said already, spotting these little devices is very difficult. Sometimes the thieves will mount a skimmer over a card scanner. Sometimes they can gain access to the machine and mount the device inside. These cyber criminals are so good that they can even build skimmers with key pads that record your PIN and you would never know you were using it.

Newer credit and debit cards have what’s known as the EMV or chip and PIN cards. These are much more secure because they transmit transaction data encrypted. But those are not 100% secure either.

After they get your information they may decide to empty your bank account or max out your credit card on a  shopping spree. Its calledcard not present fraud.”

So how do you detect a card skimmer?

If you investigate the device you can sometimes spot a skimmer. Here are a few tips.

  1. Look for tampering. Check the device for any sign that it has been tampered with. Check top, bottom and both sides of an ATM. Check the card reader and the keyboard.
  2. Does it look right? Do you recognize it? If it is your bank ATM does it look different, such as a different color or material, graphics that aren’t quite correct or anything else that doesn’t look right. Be alert and paranoid about any machine. 
  3. If you’re at the bank and there is more than one ATM compare them. Look for obvious differences between the two? They should be identical.  If not alert the bank and police immediately.
  4. Check that  keyboard. Is it too thick? Is it loose or just does not look like it fits right? There may be a PIN-snatching overlay. Don’t use it.

    Fake ATM keypad

    5. Push, pull, jiggle everything. ATM’s are pretty sturdy so it should feel solid. Card skimmers and fake key pads are installed quickly and if you pull on one it may come off in your hand.

6. Another good practice is to hide your hand when entering your PIN. Some hackers use tiny cameras mounted above the ATM to record your PIN. Use one hand to cover the other when entering your PIN.

A card skimmer can be anywhere. You need to be alert and look for any signs that something is wrong. Be aware of gas pumps that might have been tampered with. This is a favorite hacker target. Why? Because they have a high volume of traffic and are not closely monitored. A good crook can install a card skimmer in seconds and come back for it in a few minutes having collected data from several cards. He may do this at several gas stations in a single day.

But the criminal may not come back for the skimmer at all. In the past skimmers had memory chips that required criminals to come back and retrieve the device. No more. The newest skimmers can transmit the information via Bluetooth or text message to the criminals computer. They can install the skimmer and record for hours. And you don’t have to build these devices. You can easily buy these devices on the web where they are sold openly.

But you can fight back. Your smartphone can detect these Bluetooth skimmers. When you arrive at a gas pump or any location using a self-serve card machine whip out your smartphone and  go to settings. Turn on the Bluetooth and have it search for sources. If a you see a string of suspicious numbers come up do not swipe your card in that pump or ATM. Report it to the police and store management immediately.

There are also apps that can detect skimmers. Skimmer Scanner is currently available for Android phones and it can detect the presence of a skimmer on a card swipe machine. The Skimmer Scanner app checks for nearby Bluetooth transmissions and alerts you when one is detected.

Now you know.

How Safe is that ATM?

Remember the good ol’ days when ATM security meant making sure you didn’t get mugged. Well those days aren’t exactly gone. You still have to be careful. But the crooks are now using card skimmers, fake keypads and other devices to rob you. So how safe is that ATM?

Card skimmer courtesy of BBB.org

Card skimmer courtesy of BBB.org

ATM security nowadays means understanding how criminals are using technology to rob you. Its time to learn their methods and technology.





Remember that ATM machines do not have to belong to a bank or any financial institution. The can be privately owned by a person or business. There is even an organization of private ATM owners known as the National ATM Council. And you can find websites that show you how to set up your own network. Would you like to buy your own ATM? It’s that simple.


Fake ATM key pad Courtesy viral4real.com

So how do you spot a fake or suspicious ATM?

  • Avoid standalone ATMs in suspicious locations. Be alert to brand names you are not familiar with.
  • A legitimate ATM machine is very secure. Since they contain cash they will be bolted and secured to a wall or floor. Free standing ATM machines that can be easily moved are to be avoided.
  • Clever criminals will sometimes place their crooked ATM next to a legitimate ATM then place an out of order sign on the legitimate one. That could indicate that the one with the sign may actually be the working ATM.  The out-of-order sign could trick you into using the criminal’s machine. Be aware!
  • Check the card slot and key pad. Is either loose or out of place?  That ATM may have been tampered with.  Check the card reader slot and key pad by trying to remove it. Yank or pull on it. It may come off in your hand. If so you have found a skimmer.  Legitimate ATM machines don’t have loose or removable parts.
  • Look for a micro camera or any other out of place device used to record your PIN.
  • Look for ATM machines with open or loose side panels or broken locks especially at drive through ATMs. Don’t use it and report a suspicious ATM to the bank immediately.
  • Check your balances daily and make sure there are no suspicious charges related to ATM use. Report any strange activity immediately.
  • Report suspicious activity around an ATM machine to the police.

Now you know

Prepare Yourself for Cyber War

canstockphoto22219067Cyber warfare is real and it’s happening everyday. How long do you think it will be before you become a victim of a cyber attack? Answer; not long. Next question; are you ready?

If you have not heard about the Sony hack then you are not paying attention. If you think it won’t ever affect you you’re in trouble. Its really just a matter of time.

Black people can’t afford to remain ignorant of what’s happening in cyber space and how to respond to it. In order to avoid becoming  a casualty you need to understand what a cyber war can do to your life in an instant.

The cyber war battlefield is everywhere. This includes personal computers, smart phones, bank accounts, 401(k)s and other money management accounts, ATMs, drinking water, gasoline pipelines and stations, electrical plants and yes, nuclear plants, dams, point of sale systems in stores, traffic lights and anything connected to the Internet .

The likelihood increases everyday that the next war this nation fights will be waged on computers aimed at crippling the systems that keep the government and daily life functioning normally. In the worst-case scenario the nation could suffer a catastrophe such as the loss of major sections of the power grid perhaps an entire region of the country. We could see the erasure of millions of bank accounts, manipulating or hijacking tens of millions of identities, or disruption of air traffic control and transportation systems throughout the nation. Or all of the above at the same time

That war is here. Most recently someone, allegedly the North Koreans, hacked Sony Pictures. This was followed by someone shutting down the entire North Korean Internet. Now a group known as Lizard Squad has attacked both Sony and Microsoft. The war is upon us…now! You better get ready.

“There’s a strong likelihood that the next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyber attack.”  – Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense and former director of the CIA.

What can you do to make sure you survive the next attack?

A) Don’t get caught without cash. ATM machines may be shut down and store computers  may not work. You may not be able to use credit or ATM cards. You should keep at least $500 dollars cash in a secure place in your home. When the financial system is attacked cash will be king. If you have a family you may need more. Don’t keep all your money in one account, spread it around. Keep your savings account in a different bank than your checking. With a little luck one of them may be working.

B) Keep your gas tank at least half full at all times. You may not be able to buy gas for few days or have to drive some distance to find it. And when you do find it could be very expensive.

C) Keep emergency supplies at home. Basics like non-perishable foods, a few cases of water, blankets, simple medicines, extra prescriptions, flashlights, batteries and battery powered radios, maybe charcoal or extra fuel for the barbecue grill. If you live in a cold climate at least one source of heat that does not require electricity with fuel to last a week. Also keep an emergency supply kit in your car with enough food and water for at least 24 hours.

D) Make sure you have basic tools for emergency purposes. Matches, a sewing kit, a fire extinguisher, shovel, a can opener, plastic bags, disinfectants and sanitizers.

F) Pay attention to the needs of babies, children and pets and the elderly. Something like a child’s favorite toy in time of stress and insecurity can be a big help. Prepare a back pack with some treats they like, books, games or even some school work to keep them busy. This can help re-assure a child.  Keep this back pack ready with the rest of your supplies

If you have an infant be ready with extra diapers, medicines, proper clothing and food.

For the elderly make sure you have extra medicines they may need, hygiene products such as adult diapers, special foods, clothing, glasses, hearing aids, medical supplies. You can also prepare a back pack with these items as well.

Pets need to eat and drink too. Make sure you have a way to secure your animal to keep it from roaming. And keep treats for them as well. You may need to transport a pet so keep that box handy.

Pay attention to personal hygiene. Make sure you have soapy wipes, toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper, etc. Another nice luxury to have is a camping toilet.

G) Entertainment This is no trivial matter. There could be some long boring hours ahead. Have a way to fill these hours helps to avoid frustration, tension and boredom if the grid is down for more than a day or two.  Card games, board games and other forms of entertainment can make enduring a crisis much easier.

H) Community and Communicate. Work with your neighbors set up a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program. Divide responsibilities for things like a neighborhood watch for suspicious individuals, first aid and sharing of resources and information.

When it comes to communication you may be out of touch with family members in the affected areas or you may be the one out of touch. This is normal. The Internet, landline phones and cell phones maybe out of service for days. Don’t panic.

I) If you have to move Sometimes there are circumstances where you or you and your family will have to move from your home for safety and security. This is where you will need a full tank of gas in the family car. You will need blankets or sleeping bags and food and water and most importantly a place to go. Know where there are emergency shelters. Pay attention to any traffic information that is being broadcast and have a GPS device available. You might actually be able to use it.

Hopefully the situation will not become so bad you have to arm yourself but you never know. Act as you see fit. In many emergencies there are people who take advantage of the situation to commit crimes such a looting or burglary and even violence. Be prepared and act with restraint but protect you and yours.

J) Have A Back-Up Plan And Be Flexible –There is a saying in the military; no plan survives an encounter with the enemy. When your plan is disrupted, what will you do? It is imperative for you to have a back-up plan and to be flexible. The worst thing you can do is believe your plan is infallible.

You may have seen some or all of this information before. If so then you know it is very similar to what you need to do to prepare for a major storm or other natural disaster. You need to pay attention because I can almost guarantee that this will happen and it will be a very uncomfortable situation until it gets straightened out. You should be prepared to survive for at least three days without outside help and possibly longer.

Now you know.