Scammers using new, hard to see device to steal your information from ATMs

PITTSBURGH — We’ve all used ATMs to take out cash or to swipe our cards at the gas pump, which means we’ve all been at risk of getting scammed.

“You’d hope they have people checking these things, like technicians or something,” Eric Shorthouse told Channel 11.

The latest device scammers are using is called a “shimmer.” It’s similar to a skimmer that we’ve seen before. It’s an attachment on the outside of an ATM that reads a person’s card information.

However, shimmers are inserted deep inside of an ATM and are almost impossible to see.

“I will now be avoiding ATMS. Now, I will never use one of those again,” Ana Cecilia Alves said.

The Secret Service handles a lot of money scams and wants people to be aware of these devices.

“A shimmer is specific to a type of device we’ve seen in ATMS, where people are inserting the device into the place where you put your card in. It will steal the credit card data when you insert your card,” Secret Service agent Chris Hansen said.

Hanson is a forensic analyst with the Secret Service and investigates these kinds of crimes.

He gave us a show and tell of a typical shimmer: It’s a thin device that slips into the card slot, and a tiny pin-hole camera captures the user’s PIN.

“We’ve talked about these cases being death by 1000 cuts because it’s a small dollar amount, rather than a take all at once,” Hansen added.

According to Hansen, between 2020 and 2021, $115 million were stolen from people by way of ATM scams.

It happened to Elaine Fischer in Washington State. She noticed $1,000 taken out from her account after she used an ATM at her local credit union.

“I just sat there stunned, because how was this money taken out of my account when I haven’t left the house? And the card was right here in my hand,” she said.

According to the credit union, ATM vendors try to create card slots that are smaller, to make it more difficult for scammers to insert something. But — the scammers are finding a way around it.

“I have thought a lot about the idea that someone had my information, and had to have made a fake card to insert into the cash machine, then enter my PIN number. It’s really disturbing,”

To avoid being a victim, the Secret Service recommends trying to find an ATM inside of a building, or near a lot of cameras, where it’s unlikely a scammer could install a device without getting caught.

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