How to protect your account

The risk of a fraudster accessing your bank account through the card you use at the ATM or a shop terminal is very real. In fact, card fraud accounts for more than $624billion a year, or 48c in every $1,000 Australians spend on their bank cards1.

But there are a few simple steps anyone can take to minimise the risk of people accessing our accounts via our cards. Here they are.

1. Check the machine

One of the most common ways a scammer will try to get access to your bank account is at the ATM. This is usually done by installing a ‘skimmer’ over the card reader, which captures the data on your card when you place it into the machine. The scammers then use that data to create a dummy card, which can also be used to access your account.

Skimmers can be extremely difficult to detect. Most are specifically built to blend in with ATMs so you often need to be actively looking for them to notice something is wrong. And, because you’ll still receive access to your funds even if your card passes through a skimmer, there are few advance warning signs that your account will be compromised.

So before you place your card into the card reader, always check an ATM for:

  • any signs of tampering, including scratches and marks
  • anything that looks out of place, for instance different coloured plastic around the card slot
  • anything that moves when it’s pushed (ATMs are built well and don’t usually have loose parts).

If you notice anything suspicious, report it to the financial institution that owns the ATM and use another machine.

2. Cover your PIN

Capturing your card data is one thing. But to be most effective at stealing your money, the scammers want your PIN too.

For this reason, most skimmers are also accompanied by a camera, which is designed to capture you entering your PIN on the ATM’s keypad. Again, these cameras can be difficult to detect, given that many are no larger than a pinhead.

To make sure your PIN isn’t secretly recorded, use your free hand to cover the hand you’re using to enter your PIN. This alone should be enough to render most cameras ineffective.

3. Keep sight of your card

Not all card-related scams happen at the ATM. Another common place for scammers to steal your card information is at a restaurant or shop. This could involve a waiter taking your card away from your table when you pay the bill but running it through a skimmer while they’re at it. Alternatively, a store attendant may skim your details while it’s behind their desk.

The moral? Never let anyone take your card out of your sight.

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