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The Art of the Steal: Lessons From a Hired Scammer

By Marcus Chan - 2012-03-07T01:44:23Z

Photograph by Jan Stromme

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ATM Skimming and Scamming

The scam: Using skimmers -- those devices that attach to ATMs, gas station kiosks or similar terminals to steal your card's information -- was too easy a scam for Stickley. So in 2010, he did something different. He built a fake ATM.

He put his contraption outside a bar in Austin with a big "No Fee" sign on it. In five hours, 27 people used the machines. No cash was dispensed, but plenty of card data was deposited.

The lesson: Be suspicious of ATMs that are sitting outside, unattached to a bank or building. Warning signs include machines that are easy to move and those that give you an error warning without dispensing any cash. (By then, your data may already have been stolen.)

For the more common skimmer scam, Stickley suggests wiggling the slot where the card goes in. If it's loose, a skimmer may be attached. Another indicator: Do any parts of the ATM or kiosk look out of place? Also, its wise to use one hand to obscure the results when you type in a PIN, since thieves can attach pinhole cameras to steal your information.