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Scambusters!More than 60 Ways Seniors Get Swindled and How They Can Prevent It
By Ron Smith
Wellness & LifeStyleCopyright © 2006 Ron Smith
All right reserved.
Chapter OneATM Machines
You're doing your weekly grocery shopping at the supermarket. You're in the habit of withdrawing money from the ATM machine near the entrance to the store before you begin shopping. You wait a respectful distance from the ATM until the person using it departs, then it's your turn. You have always been careful around ATMs, knowing that it's a place ripe for theft and scams.
You walk up to the ATM and enter your card and your PIN code, every now and then glancing around to your left as the next person on line jiggles his foot impatiently, distracting your attention. What you don't see is the man in back of you on the right using a miniature digital camcorder to record your PIN code from behind a high stack of empty vegetable cartons. When you leave the store after shopping, somebody snatches your purse. Thieves now have both your ATM card and PIN code. Within a half hour they've drained your bank account from another ATM.
In another scenario, you approach the ATM and cautiously enter your card and PIN code to withdraw $100. Nobody is around and you feel safe. Still, something is wrong, but you can't quite put your finger on it. You blame it on nerves and make your withdrawal.
Your instincts are operating in high gear; you should have listened tothem. What you don't know is that you've been skimmed. Skimming is what happens when thieves place an electronic card-swipe device over the bank's ATM entry slot. The skimmer has been cleverly constructed to look like an integral part of the ATM-same color, same style. The device reads the information on your ATM card. A tiny digital camera mounted in the skimmer itself records your PIN code. A half hour later your bank account has been drained. You've been scammed.
How to Spot the Scam
My wife and I are seniors like you, and what we try to do is avoid ATM machines as much as possible. Since the supermarket where we live has a branch of our bank, we cash a check before grocery shopping or we pay our grocery bill from cash my wife or I have in our pockets. Not that we don't use an ATM, but we use it only occasionally, and only during daylight hours and only if we need emergency cash. Then, first thing the next morning, my wife or I call the bank and check on any unauthorized ATM withdrawals from the day before. Just being cautious, but caution where ATMs are concerned pays dividends.
The problem is that scammers have become so technically proficient, some even buy their own ATMs to capture your personal banking data, then send your numbers overseas where their counterparts in crime manufacture fake debit and credit cards using your name.
This is very difficult to spot. But you can take a few precautions to reduce the likelihood of losing your ATM information to thieves, as shown below.
How to Prevent the Scam
First and most important, try to minimize your use of ATMs. If you plan well enough ahead, you can have the cash in your pocket needed to pay for daily purchases. After all, what did you do before ATMs were invented? ATMs are a convenience; just don't become dependent on them. It's simply too risky and becoming riskier every day, as clever thieves develop new ATM technology to rob you of your hard-earned money.
Second, try never to make a withdrawal from an ATM at night; that's the time you're most likely to be physically assaulted by a robber, or worse. Third, anytime you approach an ATM, if something doesn't appear quite right, it could be your instincts kicking into high gear. For example, there might be a new attachment on the ATM that wasn't there the last time you used the machine. Or a sign says "No Tampering," or the ATM looks brand new. Until you check with your bank to make sure its bankers know about the new equipment or new attachment or are aware of the sign, don't use it.
Fourth, be especially vigilant when an ATM is jammed and there's another ATM next to it, beckoning for your use. That second ATM could belong to thieves or it could have a skimmer attachment.
Fifth, never, never give your PIN code to anyone-repeat-anyone.
Sixth, when you're using an ATM, use one hand to shade the keyboard so any snoops with video cameras or binoculars can't see the PIN code you're punching in.
Seventh, do not write your PIN code on the ATM card. You're just making it easier for thieves to drain your bank account if they steal your purse or wallet.
Eighth, within a day after each visit to an ATM (hopefully there won't be many visits), check your account for withdrawals you didn't make, just to be sure. Report any shortages or card loss to the bank immediately to reduce your liability.
Ninth, if at all possible, use an ATM located within the bank itself where it's under the watchful eyes of bank officers and tellers.
If you lose your ATM card or if it's stolen, and you report it before it's used, you are not responsible for any unauthorized withdrawals. If you report it missing within two days, your liability is limited to $50. If you report it missing between two days and sixty days, your liability is $500. If you do not report it missing within sixty days of the receipt of your bank statement, you could lose your entire bank account.
Needless to say, time is of the essence.
Excerpted from Scambusters! by Ron Smith Copyright © 2006 by Ron Smith. Excerpted by permission.
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