Monday, February 20, 2006

Debit Cards Are the Criminal's Preferred Method of Payment

Hidden Camera on ATM

When the debit card breach hit the news involving Bank of America, Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo and Office Max, several stories referenced ATM skimming.

In the Northern California Breach, the card numbers were used in signature transactions versus PIN (Personal identification number) transactions. When ATM skimming is accomplished, the criminals steal not only the card number, but the PIN, also.

They are then able to use the card at any ATM.

Automatic teller machine (ATM) skimming is accomplished by attaching devices to existing ATM Machines, or via the use of hidden cameras/encoding devices in retailers that accept ATM transactions.

ATM skimming has been prevalent overseas for a few years, but is starting to show up in North America. Recently, skimming devices have been discovered on ATM machines in California, Oregon and Washington. This is why the two activities are probably being compared.

Awhile back, I did a post: ATM Machines That Clone Your Card. Included are some handy pictures of what a machine looks like after it has been compromised and tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.

There are similarities to both activities, but there are differences, also.
As I said earlier, the Northern California breach has consisted of the card numbers being used in "signature" transactions AND the victims are all from Northern California. Additionally, the authorities and Visa/Mastercard have confirmed the point of compromise as being a major retailer, reported as possibly being Office Max.
In the Northern California case, everything points to an entire database being hacked.

In the "ATM Skimming" cases, devices are being attached to existing ATM machines, which not only record the card numbers, but PIN numbers, also. The victims in the recent cases seem to span the entire West coast.

Interestingly enough, a few months ago, I did a post, which noted ATM skimming activity on the East coast:

Get a Quick $20.00 and GO BROKE!
One FBI source has already been quoted that this activity could be the work of Russian Organized Crime. Here is an interesting document from the California Attorney General, which although is slightly dated, describes how they operate.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim of ATM skimming is to always cover your PIN when entering it. We might not be able to control, whether or not, a major company is breached, but we can control our own actions when using an ATM.


Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff, I was a victim of this. The bank gave me a really hard time because they said my pin was used.

Mike D. said...

Wow, that image of a hidden camera gets more milage than a Prius hybrid! I remember using it in several presentations about 2 years ago.

prying1 said...

Because I regularly visit your posts I now hold my free hand over the keypad when punching in numbers. Something I advise others to do too. - Thanks Ted!