Thieves raise the bar on ATM theft  

By Russ Van Arsdale, executive director, Northeast CONTACT
Posted June 05, 2011, at 6:18 p.m.

We read and hear so many stories these days about identity theft that the number of stories may actually be a kind of turn-off. “I’ve heard all that before,” is a likely response to warnings that crooks are working overtime to steal your good name, as well as your money.

The sad truth is they’re doing exactly that. And they’ve become very high tech in their thefts. Just ask the people who are charged with maintaining security for automated teller machines, or ATMs.

Thieves have come up with some novel ways to rip off ATM users. They sometimes install illicit devices, called card skimmers, in plastic sleeves in the slot where you swipe your card. This change can either transmit your information from the magnetic stripe on the rear of the card­ or gather and store your data for the thieves to pick up from the device later.

Some thieves are also hiding cameras nearby, and those cameras can record the action of your fingers as you type in your personal identification number. Cameras might be tucked away in a nearby corner, concealed in another electronic device or made to look harmless in some other way. They would likely be above eye level so they would generally go unnoticed.

Combine the electronic information from your card and your PIN, and the thieves have all they need to make unauthorized purchases. They can empty your account or sell the information to other unscrupulous users.

Thieves can sometimes steal your information when you make purchases online. Be sure you’re on a secure website, usually designated https in the url, before entering any personal or financial information. Legitimate online enterprises might also verify a personal item you listed when creating the business relationship.

The Comptroller of the Currency issued a news release last week, outlining some safe practices:

For a fact sheet from the Federal Trade Commission on what to do if your credit card is lost or stolen, visit The Comptroller of the Currency has information on unauthorized charges and other issues at

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, go to, or emai printed on August 24, 2017