In the most recent card skimming incident, an international gang of fraudsters were arrested by the Barrackpore detective wing on Tuesday, following the trigger of Rs 1.2 crore stolen from SBI ATMs between 15 and 17 November in Tripura.
With joint efforts of cops from Tripura, Assam and Kolkata, four fraudsters who were from Turkish and Bangladeshi origin were busted for managing to skim cards linked to over 1,700 bank accounts in cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Deharadun, Kolkata, Guwahati and Tripura, over the last few months.
According to news reports, they have confessed to having planted skimmers and cameras in ATMs to copy card details and clone them. They had also used software that paralyzed the power grids of ATMs.
What is card skimming?
Using devices and software attached to an ATM or a POS (point-of-sale) device, a card's information is collected by the hacker. Cloning of card details is easy on cards with a magnetic strip.
When a card user puts the card into the ATM machine or a card swiping device (to make payments to a vendor), card details are recorded with the skimming device. Small cameras installed above the PIN entering pad or above the cash counter make a note of the PIN entered by the user. These details are then moved into a blank card to create a clone, that is a duplicate of the original card, to withdraw cash from ATMs.
Some of the precautions to avoid card cloning
1. Be keen on receiving latest upgrades from banks
If you have a card with a magnetic strip, get it immediately exchanged for a chip-based card with your bank. If your bank has not upgraded to the latest card technology, switch to a better performing bank with security systems in place.
2. Do not leave card unattended
If you want to make payment at a restaurant or petrol bunk where they do not use portable POS devices, follow the attendant and go to the counter where the device is placed. Do not just give away the card to the service provider, especially with PIN information.
It will take an extra minute, but you will be able to check the machine or any suspiciously placed camera on the premises. A fraudster is less likely to skim the card with the card user in front of him.
3. Prefer busy locations for cash withdrawals
Avoid ATMs at deserted locations, especially those without a security guard. Ideally, withdraw cash at a busy location like a shopping mall or an ATM next to a bank branch as these are monitored.
It would be difficult for a fraudster to install a skimmer at a busy location or at an ATM booth that is brightly lit.
4. Don't make payments using cards at small and stuffy shops
Preferably use cash or UPI to pay for transactions at small stores which use card devices that do not look like ordinary bank-issued POS devices. Especially, do not give your card if the shopkeeper insists on making card payment.
5. Inspect the device
When you are near the payment counter or inside an ATM booth, check for all things suspicious. Does the PIN keypad have a camera placed above it? Are there additional fixtures made to the card reader that look out of place from the general structure of the ATM machine?
Card skimmers and small cameras placed on the machines are designed to be easily removable for the fraudster, which means that if the structure is shaky or loose, it is most likely a skimmer.
6. Change PIN frequently and monitor account activities
Make changes to your PIN as often as you can. Further, check your bank statement to spot any out of the usual deductions from your bank account. If your mobile number is not updated with the bank for credit and debit card transaction updates, do it immediately.
7. Use Credit Cards for payments
Credit cards with chips are more secure. This is because your debit card is linked to your savings, so when the amount is stolen, it is your money that gets deducted. In case of a credit card, the amount deducted is that of the bank, that it loans to you.
Additionally, there is generally more security in place on transactions made using credit cards. Also, if the amount is in fact deducted, you will not worry as much as you would with a debit card in case the reimbursement process takes longer.
However, for ATM transactions, it is best to avoid credit cards due to high transactional charges. They should do good for your shopping. Using them at stores and fuel stations may also help you earn reward points.
These are just some of the precautions that you can take to reduce the chances of your card being skimmed but may not completely secure it.