A global ATM skimming ring? From Romania?

Jake Turcotte/Staff
ATM skimming devices have been found in Britain, Australia, the US, and elsewhere recently.

The biggest worry about using an ATM used to be getting your car close enough to the drive-up machine so that you wouldn't look like a fool hanging out the window with the door open while a line of cars waits behind you.

But these days, conditions at the ATM are more sinister.

Tech-savvy baddies are placing homemade devices over ATM card slots, capturing the data on cards and recording personal identification numbers with hidden cameras. Unwitting bank customers carry out their transactions as normal, but their account information and PINs are stolen – only to be downloaded, duplicated, and used later.

It's a growing problem – ATM fraud more than doubled in Europe in 2008, according to EAST, the European ATM Security Team. And recent reports from New York, Connecticut, California, Britain, and Australia suggest the trend is spreading.

Australian police recently arrested seven Romanian men in connection with ATM skimming and, after seeing attacks at 50 machines in Sydney and Melbourne, allege a global conspiracy.

"They are organized international crime groups ... there are people at the very top that run it and other more lowly members that make the devices, and fit the devices to machines, and they have organizers [that coordinate local operations]," Detective Superintendent Colin Dyson, Commander of the NSW Fraud Squad told brisbanetimes.com.

Consumer advocacy blog The Consumerist has been following the ATM skimming story closely and has posted pictures of skimmers in place on ATMs, teardown photos of what the homemade devices look like, a video detailing how the scam can work, and tips on protecting against it.

The easiest way to avoid getting your information stolen? Cover the keypad when entering your PIN.

Sometimes it's the simple things that can help you avoid a whole lot of trouble.

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