24 Hour Support: 888.705.0999

Media Center

Resources and Guides - Securing Knowledge


Although fees and lines can be frustrating, there are bigger headaches in store for ATM users who are not savvy about card security. A new method of credit card fraud called "skimming" involves the use of a fake card-reading device that captures card information and sends it to a thief's wireless device.

Criminals position copper-based devices over the card-reader in ATMs or vendor slots and then simply wait to steal from unsuspecting customers. Often, the thief is closer than you think, recording your information nearby before you even notice suspicious activity. Skimming has become more advanced and harder to detect, but with a little bit of sleuthing and a lot of vigilance, you can stay ahead of criminals and avoid a skimmer's sting.

Know How it Works

  • Restaurants and bars are common settings for skimming, as a patron's card can be run through an out-of-sight skimming machine by a dishonest employee. If you doubt a vendor, use cash or a check.
  • Schemes often involve the use of a fake keypad overlay that records and sends your PIN number. Thieves may also record you typing your PIN with a hidden camera.
  • Gas stations often go unregulated and are thus a prime target for the installation of skimming devices. To sidestep theft of your PIN, always choose the "credit" option when prompted to choose at the pump.
  • Banks and businesses are most compromised by skimming when their facilities go unmonitored; choose vendors who use a trusted security service to prevent covert skimmer installations.

Avoid ATM Disaster

  • Inspect the ATM machine before you insert your card; the card reader should not protrude from the surface of the machine. If you see any oddly placed holes, they might contain hidden cameras.
  • Many ATMs now display pictures of what the keypad interface should look like. Take note of the picture, and if the actual keypad looks different, it could be a thief's faux device.
  • Anything that appears unsightly, unusual, or broken might hide a crook's machine; if you are suspicious, don't use 
    the ATM.
  • Weekends are the busiest times for skimming, so make sure to withdraw cash before Friday hits.

If You Discover Fraud

  • Report the fraudulent transaction right away to both your bank and cardholder. Thieves aren't the only ones with advanced technology — credit card companies can use data mining and sophisticated algorithms to identify patterns based on card users' complaints. When fraud victims have a particular merchant or bank in common, investigation of that establishment may lead to identification of the perpetrators.
  • Request a new card with new information so that you can regain control of your personal funds.

Though inconvenient, the easiest way to avoid skimming is to carry and use cash. Withdraw directly from your bank teller, and skimmers won't ensnare you with their tricks.

About U.S. Security Associates

U.S. Security Associates (USA) is one of North America's largest security companies, with 160 locally-responsive offices providing premier national security services and global consulting and investigations to customers in a range of industries. Recognized for world class customer service, leading-edge technology, and an enterprise approach to risk management, USA offers optimized security solutions to meet specific customer needs. USA is committed to building quality security and risk management programs that are Safe. Secure. Friendly.® The Securing Knowledge series is part of the extensive and growing library of reference and training tools that contribute to USA's award-winning customer service and benchmark security programs. USA's investment in training and development resources is reflected not only by BEST Awards from the American Society for Training & Development, consistent ranking on the Training magazine Top 125, and technology-driven quality management system, but also by the company's leadership team, security officers, and service excellence on a daily basis.

©2017 U.S. Security Associates