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13 July 2005

Warning: Bank ATM's Converted to Steal IDs of Bank Customers

A team of organized criminals are installing equipment on legitimate bank ATM's in at least two regions to steal both the ATM card number and the PIN. The team sits nearby in a car receiving the information transmitted wirelessly over weekends and evenings from equipment they install on the front of the ATM (see photos).

If you see an attachment like this, do not use the ATM and report it immediately to the bank using the 800 number or phone on the front of the ATM.

The equipment used to capture your ATM card number and PIN are cleverly disguised to look like normal ATM equipment. A "skimmer" is mounted to the front of the normal ATM card slot that reads the ATM card number and transmits it to the criminals sitting in a nearby car. At the same time, a wireless camera is disguised to look like a leaflet holder and is mounted in a position to view ATM PIN entries. The thieves copy the cards and use the PIN numbers to withdraw thousands from many accounts in a very short time directly from the bank ATM.

Equipment being installed on front of existing bank card slot.

The equipment as it appears installed over the normal ATM bank slot.

The PIN reading camera being installed on the ATM is housed in an innocent looking leaflet enclosure.

The camera shown installed and ready to capture PIN's by looking down on the keypad as you enter your PIN.

For more information, contact Becky L. Walden, Pennsylvania State Police,, at 484-250-7700 or 610-268-2022. We called and confirmed that these are working numbers and that Ms. Walden does work for the PSP.


Is the story above an urban legend or true? According to, this story is true. The above Scam Alert was originally published (in slightly different form) by the University of Texas at Austin Police Department in 2004. "ATM skimming" a method of identity theft using special equipment covertly installed on bank ATMs to capture users' PINs and card numbers is a real crime and on the rise, authorities say. Since it can be difficult to detect when a machine has been altered, experts recommend that bank customers take the following precautions to protect themselves: Use ATMs you're familiar with. Be on the lookout for changes in the equipment or signage. Block the keypad while entering your PIN. See's article, "ATM Skimming," for more information about this crime and how to avoid becoming a victim.

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