Global ATM Skimming Attacks Are in Decline—But More Lucrative Than Ever

Illustration for article titled Global ATM Skimming Attacks Are in Decline—But More Lucrative Than Ever

In the last decade, ATM skimmers have risen from fictional threat to very real crime. Now, the European ATM Security Team has announced that the total number of skimming attacks around the world is falling—but the total gains made by crooks continues to rise.


An analysis of ATM attacks in 2014 reveals that the number of skimming attacks reported around the world has fallen from 5,822 in 2013 to 5,631 in 2014—a modest decline of 3 percent. In fact, the total number of ATM-related fraud attacks has dropped massively, from 21,346 last year to 15,702 this year—a fall of 26 percent and the lowest level since 2010.

It's thought that the decline in total attacks is due to a massive 95 percent drop in Transaction Reversal Fraud—where crooks take a couple of notes delivered by an ATM but let it swallow the rest—and a 31 percent fall in cash trapping attacks. We can thank ATM engineers for those drops.

But it's not all good news. The total losses due to ATM fraud are up 13 percent to $300 million. That's mainly driven by a surge in losses from ATM skimming, which have risen by 18 percent and account for $255 million of those losses. In fact, losses in Europe fell, meaning that it's the U.S. and Asia-Pacific regions that are on the receiving end of the fraud.

"The rise in international skimming losses is not being seen in European countries where regional card blocking, often known as geo-blocking, has been widely implemented," explained the European ATM Security Team's Executive Director Lachlan Gunnin a press release. "Keeping an active magnetic stripe on a European [Chip and PIN] card continues to make that card vulnerable to card skimming and geo-blocking significantly reduces the risk of successful compromise."

Of course, we already knew that the U.S. needed to look to Europe to improve its ATM security. Sure, those Chip and PIN cards are on their way—but they need to become pervasive if we're to beat the crooks at this game.

Images by Catatronic under Creative Commons license



I have been skimmed at the gas pump. The device was later found to have been installed inside the pump, so impossible to be detected from the outside. These things transmit via Bluetooth, so no need to ever go back and get it out- just park near it while gassing up and pull the numbers.

Pay cash, or just use a dedicated credit card for gas purchases. It really sucks to have a few grand pulled from your debit card, and have to wait for a week or so to get it returned as insured via the bank/MasterCard. You should be allowed to pick the 5 digit number instead of your local Zip code on your card, it would reduce alot of the thefts guessing the local zip code as the pin.

Police never even responded to my 2 reports I had opened. One in town where I got skimmed, and the other the town where my CC number was used to fill up at multiple gas stations. It’s a theft that they know will get returned by the bank, so low priority unless it makes the local news.

We also now set up charge alert texts for every purchase on the debit card. It pretty much goes off within 5-10 seconds of swiping the card. Small annoyance to pay to know if someone else got your debit card number.