ATM thefts on the rise in Middlesex County

Individuals risk the possibility of allowing their credit and debit card numbers to be stolen whenever they use an automated teller machine (ATM) to withdraw cash.

The theft of card numbers at ATMs has been on the rise in recent months, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey said, noting that the best defense for ATM users is to place one hand over the ATM to prevent thieves from being able to view ATM customers’ personal identification numbers.

By installing tiny cameras, known as “skimmers,” over the card-reading camera of legitimate ATMs, thieves have been able to secretly record credit and debit card numbers and users’ PINs.

Recording those numbers enables thieves to create new cards and potentially steal thousands of dollars from the accounts of ATM users.

There have been 20 ATM thefts reported in Middlesex County since December, Carey said. The total amount of the thefts has yet to be determined.

In addition to blocking outsiders’ views of ATM keyboards, individuals using ATMs are advised to avoid unfamiliar ATMs and refrain from using ATMs that are not well-supervised, such as those located in the rear of convenience stores, or ATMs with sidewalk access outside of banks. Locations outside the view of a store clerk, for example, allow thieves to install their skimmer equipment undetected, Carey said.

ATM users also are warned to avoid paying for gasoline with credit cards, since skimmers have been placed at gas pumps and could remain undetected by gas station employees and customers. Users who want to pay with a credit card are advised to swipe the card quickly, and not leave it in the pump while vehicles are being filled with gas, according to Carey.

Those using an ATM at an unfamiliar location may consider examining the card-reading camera at the top of the ATM before beginning a transaction.

ATM customers are advised to immediately contact their local police upon finding any evidence of tampering, Carey said. Those who realize their card information has been stolen should alert their banks and credit card companies immediately, cancel the card and request a new one and flag the stolen card to prevent further thefts.

Victims also may go online and conduct a free credit check using Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Customers are entitled to have a free credit check with these companies once a year.

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