ATM Skimmers, Up Close

Recently, I found a guy on an exclusive online scammer forum who has been hawking a variety of paraphernalia used in ATM skimmers, devices designed to be stuck on the outside of cash machines and to steal ATM card and PIN data from bank customers. I wasn’t sure whether I could take this person seriously, but his ratings on the forum — in which buyers and sellers leave feedback for each other based on positive or negative experiences from previous transactions — were good enough that I figured he must be one of the few people on this particular forum actually selling ATM skimmers, as opposed to just lurking there to scam fellow scammers.

Also, this seller’s profile showed that he was a longtime member, and had been vouched for as a “verified” vendor. This meant that forum administrators had vetted him by checking his reputation on other fraud forums, and that he’d paid a fee to use its escrow service if any potential buyers insisted.

Anyway, I wasn’t looking to purchase his skimmers, just to check out his wares. I chatted him up on ICQ, and he said he only sold the plastic housings for the skimmer devices, but that he could show me pictures and videos of what some of his customers had done with them. Above is a video of the seller demonstrating how one of his card skimmer housings fits over the mouth of the card slot on a working Diebold Aptiva ATM.

Below are images he sent that demonstrate two very different skimmers made with his housings. The device on the top in the picture below is a flash-based spy camera nested in a beige plastic molding meant to be attached directly above the ATM PIN pad to steal the customer’s personal identification number. The image on the bottom is the skimmer itself. To the right of each are instructions for configuring the skimmer devices and for harvesting the stolen data stored on them.

A hidden camera (top) and ATM card skimmer (bottom), along with instructions for their use.

As part of the instructions to download stolen card data from the card skimmer pictured directly above, buyers are told to install a hardware driver and software program on their Windows PC (both are safe and virus free, trust us!). After that, users are instructed to enter the password “0000” when prompted, but this seller doesn’t include instructions for changing the default password. It’s nice to know that computer crooks make the same flawed security design decisions as many mainstream manufacturers of consumer electronics.

The images below show an all-in-one ATM card skimmer housing that harbors both a card reader and a mini flash-based spy camera (top, with putty). The picture on the right shows the same skimmer from the front (customer/victim facing) view.

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Have you seen:

ATM Skimmers That Never Touch the ATM…Media attention to crimes involving ATM skimmers may make consumers more likely to identify compromised cash machines, which involve cleverly disguised theft devices that sometimes appear off-color or out-of-place. Yet, many of today’s skimmer scams can swipe your card details and personal identification number while leaving the ATM itself completely untouched, making them far more difficult to spot.

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