The first thing you can do is to check for any signs of tampering. When you approach an ATM, check for obvious signs of tampering at the top of the ATM, near the speakers, the side of the screen, the card reader itself, and the keyboard. If something looks different, such as a different color or material, graphics that aren’t aligned correctly, or anything else that doesn’t look right, don’t use that ATM.
If you are at a location with multiple ATMs, it’s a good idea to quickly take a look at the ATM next to yours and compare them both. If there are any obvious differences, don’t use either one. For example, if one ATM has a flashing card entry to show where you should insert the ATM card and the other ATM has a plain reader slot, you know something is wrong. Since most skimmers are glued on top of the existing reader, they will obscure the flashing indicator.
If the keyboard doesn’t feel right—too thick, perhaps—then there may be a PIN-snatching overlay, so don’t use it.
The second preventative measure would be to wiggle everything. Skimmers read the magnetic strip as the card is inserted, so give the card reader a bit of a wiggle. Even if you can’t see any visual differences, push at everything. ATMs are solidly constructed and generally don’t have any jiggling or loose parts. Skimmers are typically designed to be added and removed quickly, so they are not as secure as the legitimate pieces. Pull at protruding parts like the card reader. See if the keyboard is securely attached and just one piece. Does anything move when you push at it? If anything is loose, walk away.
Always be aware of your account activity by checking your statements and monitoring transactions online. Card skimmers are not only found on ATMs. They can be installed any place a card is used; gas station, laundromat, movie theater, etc. Unfortunately, your card information can easily fall into the wrong hands. As long as you report the theft to your card issuer (for credit cards) or bank (where you have your account) as soon as possible, you will not be held liable for the lost amount and your money will be returned. Business customers do not have the same legal protection as individual consumers, but check with your bank or card issuer for full details. Either way, timely reporting is very important in cases of fraud, so be sure to keep an eye on your card transactions.
Lastly, pay attention to your phone. Banks and credit card companies have very active fraud detection systems in place and will immediately reach out to you, usually by telephone or with text alerts, if they notice something suspicious. Responding quickly can mean stopping attacks before they can affect you, so keep your phone handy.