Day 26

Spot ATM Skimmers / Freeze Credit History


DAY 26: Spot ATM Skimmers / Freeze Credit History

Welcome to Day 26 of my 30 day security challenge, the month long challenge I created to help you gain control of your privacy and security online. You can follow along with the whole series at where you can also download a checklist, and subscribe to for the entire video playlist.

Today, we're gonna chat about ATM and credit card skimmers, and freezing your credit history.

Let's start with ATM and credit card skimmers. These have been around for years and as such, they've also gotten a lot more technical in components. Skimmers are traditionally used to steal your card data while you swipe your card in a credit card payment system or via an ATM. There's usually a piece that goes over the swiper part, and a pinhole camera somewhere near the keypad. The swiper will read and steal your cards magnetic stripe details, while the keypad camera steals your PIN as you type it in. Overtime, they've gotten more advanced, using Bluetooth, network connections, or devices inside the ATM. While the interior bits are almost impossible for a consumer to find, the traditional ones are still in use to this day and are easier to spot.

So here's some advice when using ATMs and how to spot a shimmer, skimmer, or a fake swiper. First off, jiggle the crap outta the swiper and keypad. Folks may look at you weird, but fake ones are often put on magnetically. They've made to be removed as quick as possible, so they could easily fall off with a little bit of prying. Anytime I use an ATM, I stick my fingernail under the corner of a keypad and try to pry it up, and I try to move the swiper. If nothing moves, it's probably fine. If something comes off, don't panic. Report it to the bank or the company owner and potentially call the police, especially if it's a skimmer. In all my years of looking for one, I still haven't found one. Kinda wish I would though because that would be a heckofa good time on Twitter.

Check for cameras on or around the keypad. If you see one, report it. Also, try not to use sketchy ATMs. Stick to ones in well lit places, at banks (because banks have tons of cameras around their buildings), and in highly populated areas. This will lower your chances of being mugged, but also lower your chances of choosing a machine that was skimmed.

Covering the keypad while you type in your PIN code and checking your accounts daily will also help you with problems of theft. Using a chip and pin or contactless payment method will also help. I've linked in the shownotes to KrebsOnSecurity, as Brian Krebs has been researching ATM skimmers for many years and has done tons of research on the subject.

Next up is a credit freeze. These are not the same as a fraud alert. While the fraud alert will send you alerts if someone tries to use your credit history for fraud, a credit freeze will freeze out anyone from potentially opening new accounts, new loans, or doing background checks. Creditors wont be able to access your credit history without your consent. It doesn't hurt your FICO credit score and lasts for up to seven years. You can unfreeze it at any time if you DO need a loan or to sign up for a new card, but each time you freeze it, it costs a bit of money.

Do you need to freeze your credit report? I would argue yes, especially now that Equifax was hacked. It's not complicated to do so, but make sure you have your personal information at the ready for each of the credit unions. Make a call to Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and the smaller Innovis and request a freeze from each one. If they try to sell you lock or fraud alert accounts instead, repeatedly request the freeze. Each agency phone number is listed in my shownotes. You can also set up the credit freeze online through each agency, but over the phone will be more secure, especially if you haven't set up the secure settings for your connections that I've already spoken on in my 30 day challenge.

Day 26 is now complete! Tomorrow is all about opting out of public databases. But first, make sure to subscribe on and hit up for the downloadable checklist. Again, I'm Shannon Morse and I'll see you tomorrow for day 27!

Equifax — 1-800-349-9960

Experian — 1‑888‑397‑3742

TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872

Innovis — 1-800-540-2505