TUCoPS :: Scams :: peek.txt

Someone Looking Over Your Shoulder


Someone Looking Over Your Shoulder
        Do you ever have that creepy feeling that you're being watched
-- that  someone you can't see is looking over your shoulder? It may be
more than just  your imagination, especially if you're using an ATM card
at your bank or gas  station.

        Thieves are out there watching, often with telescopes or cameras
with long  telephoto lenses. They are watching your hands punch your
personal  identification number into the terminal. The next step is to
make a copy of your  ATM card. That's easier than you may think. All
they need is your account  number and a device that imprints that number
on the magnetic strip of a blank  credit card.

        Those account numbers are plentiful. There are trash cans and
waste  baskets full of them around every automated teller machine.
People just throw  them away, not realizing that a clever thief can use
the numbers printed on those  receipts to manufacture duplicate ATM
cards. Passers then use those cards to  drain cash from victims' bank
accounts until either the money is gone or the card  access is canceled
by the bank.

        I've seen these watchers, these so-called "shoulder surfers," at
work in  New York City. It was a couple of years ago at the Port
Authority Terminal, where  I was shooting a story on phone fraud. My
cameraman and I saw "surfers" spying  on callers as they punched their
calling-card numbers on pay phones. Those  numbers were later sold on
the street for $20 to $50 apiece.

        More recently, two enterprising thieves in New York installed a
small video  camera over an ATM to record people as they made their
transactions. They also  provided a handy tray to dispose of the ATM
receipts. They put the information  together and ripped off the banks
for $1.4 million in only six days.

        This is also happening at service stations where people use
their ATM  cards to buy gas. The terminal is usually mounted on a post
near the pumps in  plain view of anyone nearby. All the surfer has to do
is watch for those customers  who throw their gas receipts in the trash,
and they have the makings of a  counterfeit card. Arco is now lowering
their ATM terminals so the customer's body  blocks the view of the

        One device that might foil shoulder surfers is the kind of
digital keypad we  have on our news room security system. There are no
numbers printed on the  keys. Instead, the person at the door presses a
button that reveals lighted num- bers behind the keys in random order.
That number pattern is different every time  the button is pushed and
can be seen only by someone standing directly in front  of the keypad.

        Here are some tips to avoid being ripped off: -- Memorize your
PIN number. Don't write it on your card or carry it in your wallet.

        -- Don't choose obvious number sequences, like 1-2-3-4, your
address or  your birth date.

These are the first numbers a thief would try if he or she had your

        -- Cover the ATM keypad with your hand or body when entering
your  access code.

        -- Take your receipts with you. If you don't want them for your
bank  records, at least throw them away elsewhere.

        If you have any questions or comments, please write to David
Horowitz in  the Consumer Forum+ (go FIGHTBACK). COPYRIGHT 1994 CREATORS


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