How is ATM fraud even possible

What are the most common tricks used by credit card fraudsters?

Table of Contents

  1. Is it even safe to pay by card?
  2. How do fraudsters get hold of my data in the first place?
  3. How can I protect myself from theft and counterfeiting?
  4. How do I protect myself against phishing, skimming and the like?
  5. Attention is crucial

If you use your credit or debit card regularly, then security plays an important role for you. Payment by card only makes sense if you can rely on it. So that you no longer have to worry about security in the future, we want to explain the most common tricks used by fraudsters in this guide. In this way you can avoid possible pitfalls and continue to pay with your card without any problems in the future.

Is it even safe to pay by card?

The security of debit and credit cards has been the subject of constant debate. Cases of fraud often play a role here, because according to various estimates, the amount of damage is more than one billion euros per year. This is little compared to other types of fraud, but you should still be careful. Even if you are active in online shopping, using a credit card gives you a high level of security. However, understanding how to use the card correctly ensures that your credit card really guarantees the highest level of security in every respect.

Are there big differences in security?

You may also be wondering whether a debit card or credit card is more secure. Basically, it's difficult to say. With a bank card, however, you can usually only pay in stores, which means that there is less potential for abuse than with a credit card, which a fraudster could also use for online payments. On the other hand, there is critical information printed on your bank card: your IBAN. Theoretically, fraudsters could use them for direct debit payments on the Internet. Similar to the misuse of credit cards on the Internet, you can stop this process with a return debit, so that the risks are minimized.

What does my card protect in retail?

There is still a risk of fraudsters using your stolen bank card in retail stores. Here, too, there is an obstacle: you normally have to enter a PIN when paying with your bank card. Cracking these is anything but easy. In some cases, signature verification is also used - this in turn increases the risk. The same statements apply to credit cards, which you use to make purchases in retail outlets. However, the NFC technology can be a small disadvantage. Payments of up to 25 euros can be carried out through this with debit and credit cards without verification. Due to a random PIN control for NFC payments, only a few payments of this type are possible without having to verify yourself at the checkout at some point.

What protects my card in online trading?

In this guide, we have already briefly touched on the fact that card misuse on the Internet could be a problem. This is because payments on the Internet can be made with very simple numbers. If you pay by direct debit on the Internet, you can often enter any IBAN. Fraudsters could take advantage of this to go on a shopping spree on the Internet with your IBAN. However, you have good opportunities to reclaim the money from your bank after a possible case of fraud. Credit card payments on the Internet are also quite easy. You often only have to enter your card number, the expiry date and the three or four-digit security number (usually noted on the back). A further verification stage (the so-called 3D secure procedure) is not always used. With this you have to verify the payment again, for example with an SMS PIN. If, however, no 3D secure procedure is used, it could be problematic for you. However, the same applies to credit cards: In the event of abuse, it is possible to get your money back.

How do fraudsters get hold of my data in the first place?

Any type of fraud involving your debit or credit card is very unlikely. Nevertheless, there are a few tricks that fraudsters can use to get relevant card data over and over again. In this guide, we therefore want to suggest to you what you should absolutely pay attention to.

What tricks do the scammers use most often?

There are a total of six tricks that fraudsters use again and again to get credit and bank cards or the corresponding data. These are the classic variants of fraud involving payment cards:

In addition, there are now numerous new tricks that fraudsters can use to get your card details or your money. This includes:

In the following, we would like to explain to you what each is and how you can protect yourself against this type of card fraud.

How can I protect myself from theft and counterfeiting?

Theft and counterfeiting still play an important role in the context of credit and bank card fraud. It also happens in Germany that cards are simply stolen and then misused. In the vast majority of cases, however, this is due to incorrect behavior on the part of consumers. We would therefore like to suggest to you what you should under no circumstances do. How to protect yourself:

How do I prevent my card from being stolen?

If you want to prevent your card from being stolen, you should never lose sight of it. That is of course easier to say than it is. However, if you exercise normal caution, you are unlikely to run into problems. Specifically, this means: Ideally, always carry your bank and credit cards with you. In addition, never leave the card open, not even in your car, at home or at work. You may perceive these places as safe, but an open debit or credit card is always a sensation. So protect yourself and only store your card, if at all, in well-protected places. In addition, remember to check your wallet after every transaction. This will prevent you from leaving your card lying around or from being stolen by a third party when you are inattentive.

How do I protect my PIN effectively?

Your PIN is also an important asset. It is true that the PIN usually only helps a thief if the card is also stolen. But the "double theft" is much more common than you probably think. Normally, however, this is due to a far too lax handling of sensitive data. Even today it happens again and again in Germany that consumers write the PIN directly on their card. You can't really make a bigger mistake. But you should also refrain from writing your PIN on a piece of paper in your wallet. Depositing it on your smartphone is similarly dangerous. This can also be stolen or even hacked from a distance in order to spy out your PIN. Therefore: Remember your PIN and never keep it in the same place as your card. This is nothing but an invitation for scammers who want to go on a shopping spree with your card.

What can I do to prevent card forgery?

Things get much more complex when it comes to card forgery. The scammers are getting more and more creative in this regard. They manipulate ATMs or point-of-sale terminals in order to copy your sensitive data. Especially if your card is still mainly using magnetic stripe technology (which is rarely the case in Germany), card forgery using a manipulated terminal is possible. There have also been cases of fraud in online retail in recent years in which “wrong” online shops collected credit card data and then resold them (as of 04/2017). To protect yourself from such scams, you should always be vigilant. Only buy from dealers and online shops that you think are legitimate. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, it is better not to pay with your card. In addition, you should only withdraw money from ATMs if you have no doubts about the respective machine. Ideally, you should only use machines in bank branches. This minimizes the risk of possible abuse.

How do I protect myself against phishing, skimming and the like?

The difficult terms phishing, skimming and co. Cannot be distinguished directly from the tricks mentioned above. Rather, they are special variants to get your data. We therefore want to explain to you what you should pay attention to.

What is phishing?

Phishing is a type of data theft related to the internet. The word is a combination of the terms “password” and “fishing”. Specifically, the point is that fraudsters want to get your card data via fake e-mails or websites. Mostly it concerns credit cards, although phishing is also being used more and more frequently to get login data for online banking. Basically, phishing is easy to prevent: your bank will never ask you for your card details or other sensitive information by e-mail. So never email your credit card or bank account details to a specific address. This also applies if a letter looks like it came from your bank. In addition, make sure that you do not follow any login links from emails from your alleged bank. More and more often, fraudsters are copying websites in order to get your login data.

The term phishing explains:

Unfortunately, the same scam now also applies to websites in general. For example, if you make a mistake when entering the browser page, you could end up on copied websites from providers such as Amazon or Otto. The fraudsters completely replicate the websites. However, when it comes to payment, you don't get your goods. Instead, your credit card information is stolen. Experts therefore advise checking the web address again before selling and paying particular attention to the https encryption in the browser. This is an effective way of preventing phishing and protecting yourself.

How can I prevent skimming?

Skimming is a form of data theft. It is mostly about manipulated ATMs. Recently, however, there have also been cases at ticket machines (as of 04/2017). The scheme is always similar: when you insert your card into the manipulated machine, the data from your card is read and copied. The transaction then usually does not work. Your data is still lost. At the same time, mini cameras are often attached to certain places that you film when you enter your PIN. In the worst case, both your card details and your PIN could be stolen. It is therefore advisable to always cover the entire field when entering the PIN. In general, you should ideally only use ATMs that are located within a bank branch. This increases the security of the withdrawal and also protects you from skimming.

What other tricks are there?

Unfortunately, the scammers are getting more and more creative. The protection is also getting better and better at the same time. However, you should be aware of the potential dangers.

A new form of fraud is the so-called “Romanian Loop”. The ATM is manipulated in such a way that it no longer spits out the card. An alleged helper then asks you to re-enter the PIN. Instead of helping, however, only the secret number should be spied on. As soon as you leave the machine, the fraudsters secure the card and can go on a shopping spree with it.

So-called “cash trapping” is also becoming a problem with increasing frequency. This is a manipulation of the ATM. The fraudsters install a special device that prevents the money from being paid out. As a customer, you have the impression that there is a malfunction. In fact, the money is just being held up. As soon as you exit the ATM, the scammers secure the money by dismantling the device.

Two other methods have also established themselves as classic tricks. Fraudsters play as a team again and again: a person accidentally drops money next to the ATM and relies on your willingness to help. If you bend down, either your card or the money that has already been paid out will be stolen by a second person. Pretended public functions are based on a similar pattern. Some fraudsters pretend to be police officers or bank employees and supposedly want to help. A second person then often plays the “criminal” who is expelled. The alleged police officer or bank employee will either steal the card or its sensitive data if you're not careful.

Attention is crucial

At first glance, all of these ideas sound like horror. But card misuse is very rare in Germany. In addition, attentive citizens almost never have problems. Therefore: When withdrawing, always make sure that there are no people directly next to or behind you. Also take a close look at the respective machine to determine possible manipulation. You should only withdraw money or buy a ticket if you feel really safe. Attention is also crucial in all other life situations. When paying, you should never lose sight of your card and be careful when entering your PIN. In addition, you should always keep your card with you for the rest of your life. If you never give your card out of your hand or leave it lying around in public, you will likely never run into card security issues.

Image sources:

Theft: EURO Kartensysteme GmbH
Contactless payment: ING DiBa

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