And, it’s not because the person who used it before you left germs. (Although, it doesn’t hurt to have some hand sanitizer handy.) Did you know taking money out at the ATM could put your finances at risk? ATM debit card skimming is a real threat, and being informed about the risk could save you in the long run.

ATM skimming is the theft of your card information during an ATM transaction. It happens when thieves install electronic devices, or skimmers, over the card reader on the ATM. The device records the magnetic strip on the back of your card and then a camera often hidden near the skimmer records your PIN. 

Once the thieves have all of that info, they can create counterfeit cards to make purchases and withdraw cash from your account. So, what can you do to protect yourself? 

For starters, be sure to use EMV chips cards whenever possible. Instead of having static, unchangeable card information stored in a magnetic strip along the back of a card like traditional credit cards, EMV cards have a small chip that encrypts your personal data. This chip creates a new transaction code with every use. Instead of swiping, you’ll insert the card into the reader and either sign or enter your PIN depending on the prompt. Because transaction data is used for each purchase, there’s nothing for a thief to reuse.

Although, EMV chips are ideal for protecting you against skimming, not every ATM you encounter has that option, and not all EMV cards have been issued. In the meantime, be sure you are using secure ATMs with video surveillance or those inside of establishments. Pay close attention to what the reader looks like. If it’s different from what the ATM normally looks like, be wary.

If it seems like the scanner is loose or doesn’t fit right, it might have been tampered with. If you suspect a skimmer has been installed on an ATM, call the service number on the machine immediately. You could be saving yourself and anyone who might have used the machine after you.

If you think you have been the victim of fraud, call your bank to cancel your card immediately. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and pay close attention to your accounts: fraud can happen when you least expect it and right under your nose. 

Wintrust offers several checking account options, each of which is included within a network of 65,000 surcharge-free ATMs.