Taking cash out of an ATM is becoming risky business, but fortunately the biggest ATM skimming scheme recently got busted. Last Wednesday, a leading member of one of the largest card-skimming rings in the United States was sentenced to 7 years in prison for his role in a criminal conspiracy that stole more than $5 million from cardholders of a half-dozen banks. Dinu Horvat was sentenced by a federal judge in New Jersey and ordered him to pay $7.4 million in restitution to thousands of victims whose card information was stolen by Horvat's skimmers at ATMs of Wells Fargo, TD Bank, Citibank and other banks in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida and other states, according to U.S. District Attorney Paul Fishman.
With more and more ways for hackers to steal our card information, we can't help but ask ourselves: Is my credit card information safe? Here at GET.com we'll show you some of the different ways that skimmers can steal your card information so that you can play it safe next time you visit the ATM.
Fishman's office accused Horvat of designing sophisticated card skimmers which fit into ATMs and pinhole cameras to steal their PIN numbers. These skimmers steal cardholders' information when they insert the card and enter their number. The leader of the skimming ring, Marius Vintila, plead guilty to bank fraud and identity theft.
Vintila, together with his associate, Bogdan Radu and more than 15 other individuals, inserted devices designed and built by Horvat into hundreds of ATMs across the country.
The stolen data was then used to create thousands of cloned cards and withdrew millions of dollars from cardholders' bank accounts. According to the Justice Department's indictment, Vintila's ring is the largest card skimming scheme ever uncovered by law enforcement.
Horvat's custom-made so-called deep insert skimmers are especially good at escaping detection. ATM manufacturer NCR Corporation has reported a sharp rise in the incidence of deep insert skimmers, paper-thin devices designed to fit seamlessly into the card slots of ATMs and steal credit and debit card information.
Unlike typical skimmers, deep insert skimmers are completely invisible from the outside, so there's no way for cardholders to tell if an ATM has been compromised. NCR has reported deep insert skimmers in the United States, the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Bulgaria and Turkey, according to security expert Brian Krebs.
So, what can you do to protect your card info? One of the best ways is to check your account often to monitor any fishy transactions. If you notice anything unusual, contact your bank immediately and they can help you solve the problem. One important feature that many credit cards offer is $0 fraud liability protection, if your card has this feature then you won't be liable for any losses that you may have incurred due to fraud if you contact your bank immediately. Here you can see 5 ways to protect your credit card.
Scammers are combining deep insert skimmers with pinhole cameras above ATM keypads to capture cardholders' PIN numbers. NCR says it is working on a firmware update that will help its ATMs detect deep insert skimmers more easily, but the new generation of skimmers has already spread far and wide.
According to FICO, the number of compromised ATMs skyrocketed in 2015. FICO's Card Alert Service monitors hundreds of thousands of ATMS around the world, and found that the number of ATMs compromised by skimmers increased by more than 500% last year compared to 2014.
Non-bank ATMs are a favorite target of scammers because they generally have fewer security measures and are often located in out-of-the-way places without cameras.
FICO says that non-bank ATMs accounted for 60% of all compromised ATMs in 2015, although it could be that deep insert skimmers in bank ATMs are harder for FICO's Card Alert Service to detect.
NCR says that current detection techniques are largely ineffective against deep insert skimmers, so the real number of compromised bank ATMs could be much higher than FICO suspects.
Card skimmers are also shortening the length of each compromise, taking a quick-hit approach to fraud, says FICO's VP of fraud solutions, TJ Horan. Despite the arrests of Vintila, Radu and Horvat, scammers are increasingly using deep insert skimmers and shorter schedules to avoid detection.
To learn more about ATMs and how to use them safely, take a look at our guide to ATMs.