[REPORT] ATM Data Thefts at Highest Level in 20 Years

[REPORT] ATM Data Thefts at Highest Level in 20 Years

The number of debit card users whose data gets snatched by crooks at ATMs is at its highest level in two decades.

[Related: How Fake $100 Bills Avoided Detection]

A shocking new report from the Wall Street Journal says that between January to April 9 of this year, the number of debit card compromises at ATM were up 174% at machines on bank property and an astonishing 317% at non-bank machines, according to credit-scoring and analytics firm FICO.

It marks the highest level of such theft in that time period in 20 years, according to the Journal.

“These tremendous spikes in fraud are unprecedented,” John Buzzard, who manages FICO’s card-alert service, told the paper.

Also surprising is that an old method is being used to swipe the information. Many of the incidents involve skimming–a process in which thieves install devices that capture card details from its magnetic stripe and, sometimes, also includes a tiny camera hidden in the machine that records the cardholder entering their PIN (personal identification number) to retrieve their cash.

Those stealing the details then create fake debit cards with real numbers that are used to withdraw cash at ATMs or make a purchases in a brick-and-mortar or online stores. Cardholders aren’t typically liable for the fraudulent activity, but banks may have some discretion to determine if the customer promptly reported the theft, according to the Wall Street Journal, and the customers still have to deal with the headache of the breach.

Several banks are quickly producing credit and debit cards with computer chips that allegedly make it tougher for thieves to create clone cards, but the report says most ATMs don’t yet accept the new technology, despite many retailers–who will be partially liable for fraudulent costs starting in October–working to get the readers in place. That same liability won’t apply to ATM operators until next year at the earliest, the report says.

Credit cards have long thought to be safer to use than debit cards, and attacks on those methods of payment are easier to recuperate from, but data theft is on the rise and it seems it is getting more and more difficult to make sure finances and information stay safe. One tip provided in the Wall Street Journal article to protect yourself at an ATM is to cover your hand as you enter in your pin, preventing any possible cameras from accessing that key piece of data.