The rise of card skimming at ATM’s

Finance Identity Theft - ATM

This blog addresses the issue of card skimming as a way of stealing a person’s PIN number for debit and credit cards

Since the introduction of the debit/credit card PIN number, Fraudsters have used more and more sophisticated methods and techniques of obtaining the card data, including the highly secure PIN number.  Using small electronic devices called skimmers, which can have a built-in camera, fraudsters have been able to read card data from card readers found in all retail stores and eateries at point-of-sale locations or bank ATM’s.

The skimmer is generally placed around the card slot in an ATM and reads the card data that is held on the magnetic strip, while the card is being processed by the ATM. In the meantime, a tiny camera which is built in to the skimmer or positioned elsewhere on the ATM reads the PIN as it is keyed in by the cardholder. Once the Fraudster has this card data, they are able to carry out several types of transactions, including online purchases.

At some ATM’s, after a bank customer inserts their card and their PIN, it can seem as though that the card has been ‘eaten’ by the ATM. The card is not released back to the customer, nor is the cash that they may have requested to withdraw. Bank customers are left angry and frustrated as they will need to re-order a new replacement card. This often requires two weeks before receipt. In the meantime, the bank customer can only make payments in cash, meaning frequent trips to the Bank or withdrawing large amounts of cash (which in some countries can be extremely dangerous).

A palm vein biometrics solution would act as a deterrent and could drastically reduce card fraud. By installing palm scanners at ATM’s the requirement for a PIN number could be removed. Instead the palm vein reading would act as the identity confirmation. Not only does this reduce card fraud, but it also makes it easier on the user from having to remember multiple PINs. Overtime, the requirement to insert a bank card into the ATM could also be abolished as the palm reading would be associated with the user’s bank accounts.

For a bank customer to access his account whilst at a bank, the need to give a card to the bank teller would be a thing of the past. Instead, by providing a palm reading, the bank teller will automatically be shown details of the customer’s bank accounts. No further identification (such as driving license, passport etc.) would be required.

This could also be taken further for use in locations where point-of-sale terminals are used, such as within retail stores, restaurants, leisure & entertainment places. A palm reading of a customer can be taken in order to process payment transactions. This method of payment can replace the need for a card reading machine/card swipe on the till where a PIN or signature is still required. There will be no need to worry about card details (including the CVC code commonly found on the back of cards and required for online payment transactions) being stolen. 

Unlike the fingerprint recognition solutions, the palm vein technology is a highly secure and contactless biometrics solution that works by reading the vascular pattern of the palm. These patterns are unique to each individual and exists underneath the skin layer so they cannot be forged thereby making it more secure than any other biometric device. Being contactless and technologically advanced, it is extremely appropriate for use by end customers as well as for bank employees where security cannot be compromised.

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Commonwealth Bank of Australia. ATM Card Skimming & PIN Capturing. Retrieved from