Skip to main content

Counterfeit / Skimming Fraud

Counterfeit fraud occurs when a criminal skims or copies the data held on the magnetic stripe of a legitimate credit or debit card and uses this data to create a fake plastic card, which contains the real cards details – this is known as a counterfeit card. This card is then used to purchase goods or services or to withdraw cash at ATMs in countries that have not yet implemented Chip and PIN technology.
Card skimming can occur by means of a small handheld skimming device when the cardholder is paying for goods and services. It can also happen at ATMs if a criminal attaches a skimming device to the ATM. For skimmed card data to be of greatest use to the criminal, they also need to know the PIN number for the card.

  • With skimming at an ATM, the criminal usually also attaches a micro-camera to the ATM that records the PIN being entered. Both the skimmer and the camera are well hidden and often hard to detect.
  • When skimming occurs while paying for goods or services, the criminal will usually try to observe the cardholder while they are keying in their PIN.
  • Cover your PIN as you enter it into an ATM or POS machine

It is worth remembering that your credit or debit card details can be used fraudulently even when the card itself is safely in your care. So it is vital to check your bank statements regularly. The sooner you spot and report any purchases that you didn’t make, the sooner your bank or financial institution can stop the fraudster buying goods and services on your account.

Be safe at the ATM and while paying for goods and services with your card.

Withdrawing cash at an ATM is generally safe and the vast majority of ATM transactions happen without any problem. However, ATMs are in public areas and sometimes attract criminals who see the ATM as an opportunity to steal your card or to copy your card details. It is therefore important, to take some common sense precautions when withdrawing cash.
The video below (supplied by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and collated by BPFI) shows genuine footage from a micro-camera installed by criminals on an ATM. It shows how easy it is to see the PIN pad, once a micro-camera is installed but also how simple it is to cover the PIN pad and conceal your PIN.

Card Payments
Card payments are one of the safest and most convenient ways to pay for goods and services. Since the introduction of Chip and PIN many stores do not even touch your card and get you to enter it in to the payment terminal yourself. In situations where this is not the case it is important that at a minimum you always keep the card within your sight.

Key Advice

  1. Shielding your PIN so that no one can see it is one of the most important things you can do while using an ATM or paying by card in-store.
  2. Stand close to the ATM or payment terminal and always shield the PIN pad with your free hand and your body to prevent those around you seeing your PIN. This will also protect your PIN from being recorded by a hidden camera in the event that a criminal has placed one on an ATM.
  3. Be Alert at the ATM. Be aware of the people around you, especially those standing close by. If someone is crowding you or trying to distract you, cancel the transaction and go to another ATM.
  4. Be aware of any damage or obvious fixtures to the ATM that look out of the ordinary. If in doubt, use another ATM.
  5. Be cautious of seemingly well-meaning people trying to help you at the ATM. Criminals sometimes use this tactic to cause distraction and to steal your card or your money.
  6. Do not reveal your PIN to anyone, even if they appear to be helping you. Without your PIN, your card is of little value to a criminal.
  7. If you become suspicious of an individual(s) at an ATM, walk away. Report any suspicious activity to the ATM owner (if it is located at a bank branch) or to the Gardaí as soon as possible.
  8. If you believe your card has been compromised, go to another ATM, change your PIN as soon as possible and report it to your bank or card issuer.