ATM skimmers have advanced with technology, and tech experts are urging consumers to take greater measures to better protect themselves.
Don Gargano learned that lesson the hard way.
He considers himself a creature of habit when it comes to staying on top of his finances, so when more than $400 disappeared from his bank account, Gargano knew something had gone wrong.
“I went back and checked the account and saw the money was withdrawn at a bank in Queens, New York,” said Gargano.
He had fallen victim to an ATM skimmer, a device criminals use to steal debit card information as users enter it. East Haven police say a skimmer at the First Niagara Bank on Main Street affected up to 200 people early January, including Gargano.
Tech expert David Polgar says it’s simply a sign of the times.
“The problem nowadays is the technology has become so small that it’s difficult for the consumer to notice,” said Polgar.
He added that part of the problem is ATM technology hasn’t changed since the turn of the century.
“But you know what has changed?” Polgar asked. “Skimming technology. So the scammers have advanced, but the ATMs we’re using haven’t.”
However, not everyone has to fall victim. ATM users can bank the odds in their favor by using machines in well lit, highly trafficked areas and covering the keypad while entering pin numbers to prevent cameras from capturing that data.
Polgar also suggests tugging at different parts of the machine to see if anything moves.
“And actually that’s how a lot of consumers have found out about skimming, kind of in the process,” Polgar said. “They’ve noticed if a part of the ATM moves.”
And as always, residents should make it a habit to check their bank account statement regularly.
“You have it right on your mobile device,” said Polgar. “Constantly check it out, see if there’s any major withdrawals. That’s something you should be mindful of.”
First Niagara, like most banks, reimbursed Gargano immediately and told us no customers would suffer a loss from the incident.
Bank officials added:
“These were criminal acts designed to illegally capture customer information, and not a breach of First Niagara’s security system.”