Fraudster Invents Skim-Proof ATM Addon

Having decided to quit the dark side, Romanian ATM fraudster Valentin Boanta invented an ATM faceplate addon that makes skimming impossible. In the process he’s done a much better job than the ATM industry.

ATM skimmers rely on being able to read the data off the magnetic stripe on your card as you insert your card into the ATM. The skimmer stays in one place as the magnetic stripe passes over the magnetic read head.

At the moment, ATM anti-skimmer add ons are generally plastic doohickeys that go over the card slot.

The idea is to make the territory skimmer-unfriendly: oddly shaped, so it’s hard to form a skimmer to fit.

Clear, so the customer expects to be able to see through the plastic, which — if the crook made a clear skimmer — would reveal the electronics.

Or just opaque plastic, meant to block the areas around the card slot where a skimmer usually hides.

Unfortunately crooks have proven adept at finding ways around all of those. (3D printing seems to help.)

The Romanian guy seems to have solved the problem in a way that no amount of 3D printing will solve.

Instead of inserting the card into the ATM such that the magnetic stripe in its entirety passes a given point on the ATM faceplate, his invention does it differently. You insert the card so that a hidden read head on the ATM faceplate would never capture more than a millimeter or two of magnetic track.

Once the card’s stripe is safely in the machine, only then do you rotate the whole assembly and slide the card into the ATM’s bowels.

“A Romanian man serving a five-year jail sentence for bank-machine fraud says he’s come up with a device that can be attached to any ATM to make the machine invulnerable to card skimmers.[…]

ATM skimmers work by installing a second, concealed card reader over the one that’s built into the ATM. When an unsuspecting bank customer inserts a card into the slot, the card’s magnetic stripe first runs past the read head of the skimmer, allowing it to copy all of the card’s data. The transaction then proceeds as normal and the ATM returns the card to the customer, who is none the wiser.

With Boanta’s device installed on the ATM, however, that all changes. Customers insert their cards into the slot long side first, so that the magnetic stripe is parallel to the face of the machine. The device then rotates the card 90 degrees into the ATM, where the legitimate card reader scans the magnetic stripe, then rotates it back out again to return it to the customer.

That rotation makes it impossible for an add-on skimmer to read the card, because the magnetic stripe never moves in a straight line until it is secure inside the ATM.”

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