ATM skimming is up 546% & there's not much you can do about it

If you still have the “it’ll never happen to me” perspective on fraud, here’s a stat that might persuade you to change your view: ATM card skimming incidents increased 546% from 2014 to 2015.

That figure comes from financial analytics company FICO and its FICO Card Alert Service software, which is designed to detect fraud resulting from things like debit and credit card skimming.

Unless you want to go to a physical bank branch, wait in line and work with a teller to make a withdrawal every time you want cash, you’re probably going to need to use an ATM occasionally. So, if you ever use an ATM, as many Americans do on a regular basis, you’re at risk for having your debit card information stolen.

That, in turn, makes the money in your bank account vulnerable, which is problematic, given that you probably plan to use that money to pay bills, buy necessities, make loan payments and do anything else a person with a checking account does.

Demoralizing, isn’t it?

There’s not much you can do to guarantee you won’t ever fall victim to ATM skimming, other than not using ATMs, but there are ways you can manage the damage fraud causes and minimize your risk of becoming a victim in the first place.

FICO reports that 60% of all skimming incidents occurred at non-bank ATMs — you might want to avoid using those. Some banks and ATMs are testing various technologies that allow account holders to withdraw money without using their cards, so you might want to see if that’s an option for you.

Upgrading to an EMV chip-enabled debit card — if your bank has not already provided one — can help, too, since the chips have a dynamic code (unlike traditional magnetic stripes) designed to make counterfeiting more difficult. In fact, the spike in card fraud could be the “last hurrah” before EMV adoption becomes more widespread.

“As the U.S. approaches chip adoption the criminals are taking this opportunity to perpetrate as much card present counterfeit fraud as possible before it is no longer viable for them to do so,” FICO said in a blog post last May when first reporting on an uptick.

Still, regardless of how you get your cash, it’s a good idea to regularly monitor your bank accounts for signs of unauthorized activity and set up fraud alerts. That goes for all sorts of accounts — credit, debit, savings, etc. — because it’s important to your financial health and credit standing that your financial information is accurate. You can use your credit reports and scores as a way to monitor for unusual account activity (a sign of identity theft), too. (You can can do so by viewing your free credit report summary every 30 days on Credit.com.)

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