Would you have spotted this skimmer found on an ATM in Puerto Vallarta?

Banks and credit unions here in the United States are reporting ATM card fraud that originated with skimmers in the touristy town of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Imagine the opportunity from a criminal’s point of view: an area full of American tourists with nice, magnetic-strip cards! Would you have been a victim? It helps if you know how to spot a compromised cash machine.

Here’s the front of one machine where skimmers were found. Does anything look amiss?


Here, the cover of the little alcove containing the PIN pad is covered with a part that matches almost perfectly and looks like part of the ATM. It isn’t, though: that surface conceals a pinhole camera meant to capture your hand as you punch in your PIN, and the batteries needed to keep that camera going while lots of victims come and go. The best clue to the fraud is maybe the

Give it another try. Here’s a closer view of the machine’s card reader. What do you see?


Yes, the added part is over the card reader, which has the actual skimmer that captures the card numbers. This is why it can be a good idea to give any parts of an ATM that look a little iffy a pull: this reader might have come right off if someone had done that.

5 Responses
  1. Heiko

    I still have no idea about the banking machine. I like the idea with the arrow and 2 pictures , one with- and one without the device

  2. jen

    I have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Can’t they draw an arrow to the machine part in question? Doh.

    1. Ian Hayden Parker

      I think that is the point to demonstrate that it’s not always easy to spot. However look at the last photo. See the number pad? See how the casing seems to be pulling away from the machine at the top? That is because the casing was added later to record the numbers you are entering with a small camera. if it looks like the casing is pulling off the machine, it might be compromised. Also where you put in the card, grab that part of the machine and pull and jiggle it a little, that are should not move at all. if it does, then someone has put a fitted sleeve on the machines card insert that will clone the black strip on your card, which holds all your private bank info.

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