Traveling to foreign countries is a wonderful way to expand your horizons and inject some excitement and adventure into your life. However, remaining financially safe while abroad is often one of the last things on a tourist’s mind. One of the easiest ways for scammers abroad to take advantage of unaware travelers is to set up an ATM scam. It’s widely understood that cash is king while traveling the world, so ATM scams in popular tourist destinations can make thousands for their masterminds. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), ATM scams (skimming) cost banks and consumers $1 billion annually. Use these tips to protect your bank funds while you’re out exploring.

Pull On Every Card Reader

Card skimmers are a popular scam and fraud tactic no matter where you are – grocery stores, gas stations, and especially the ATM. While traveling, the risk of having your card skimmed while using an ATM greatly increases in tourist-heavy areas (think the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, or the Colosseum in Rome). Scammers insert these tiny machines into the card reader slot of an ATM. The reader looks almost indistinguishable from a regular card reader, so unsuspecting tourists don’t think twice about inserting their debit card. However, this skimmer takes the identifying information from your card’s chip or strip and sends it right back to the scammer, so they can make purchases using your debit card without having the actual card on hand.

All you need to do to avoid this frightening reality is give a quick tug on any card reader you’re about to use. Skimmers usually aren’t well installed, so it’s easy to loosen it or pull it out entirely. If a reader looks crooked or loose before you even use the ATM, it may be best to find another machine or pull out the skimmer for the next tourist that comes along.

Check the ATM for Scam Add-Ons That Don’t Belong

Card skimmers aren’t the only trick that international scammers have up their sleeves. They may also install tiny cameras on the ATM within view of the card reader and keypad. This will give the scammer the perfect vantage to steal your debit PIN. Look above your head, over the screen or keypad, and to the sides of the screen and keypad for any boxes that look like they don’t belong. These boxes could be disguised to look like they’re part of the machine or even an envelope box. If you don’t usually see boxes like it on the ATM you use at home, it’s probably a camera used for a scam.

Additionally, some savvy scam artists will place a fake keypad over the real ATM keypad that will log your PIN and send it back to the scammer. If a keypad is especially spongey, it may not be the real deal.

Visit ATMs With Lines

As with many things when abroad, go where the locals go. Locals usually know when an ATM is a scam and will avoid it at all costs. When you’re a busy tourist trying to hit all the sights, an ATM without a line could seem like a godsend. However, a lack of traffic may mean everyone else knows there’s a scam artist at work. Take a moment to locate an ATM that has plenty of customers. If the local people use an ATM, it’s likely to be safe.

Examine Discarded ATM Receipts for Scam Charges

ATM scam artists aren’t always shady loners collecting information in a dark basement. They could also take the form of predatory businesses with sketchy practices. Sometimes a seemingly legitimate ATM will charge you outrageous fees that are designed to skim money off the top of your account. For example, when withdrawing money in the local currency, scam ATMs may have an exorbitant conversion fee in addition to a service charge that snatches a significant percentage of your money before it even reaches your hands.

Try to find discarded receipts on the ground or in a nearby trash can before you use a machine. In looking at previous transactions, you can see just how much the ATM in question is charging for conversion or service fees. It might appear strange to locals nearby, but this could save you a lot of money on a trip.

Safeguarding Your Money from Unscrupulous Bank Fees

Unfortunately, scam companies abroad aren’t the only ones charging absurd ATM fees to their customers. Widely trusted American banks and credit unions are also guilty of attempting to squeeze as much money out of their ATM customers as possible via unfair charges. Banks may charge “out of network” fees that skim money right off the top of your transaction. McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP, has become one of the top consumer law firms in the Inland Empire by fighting for customers’ rights against big corporations. With millions recovered for our clients, we have the resources you need to reclaim what’s yours. If you have found your bank or credit union is nickel and diming you with unfair fees at the ATM, contact us today or call (855) 976-3154 to schedule your free consultation.