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Have you heard of 'skimming'? It's a technique that criminals use to steal money from unsuspecting bank account customers - and the US Secret Service reckons it costs over a billion dollars every year.

There's a recent case in the US in which five men have stolen over half a million dollars from bank accounts by tampering with cash machines in Wayne, Oakland and Livingston counties. An article in Detroit Free Press tells us more.

The scam works by attaching a small camouflaged device to cash machines, so it can capture electronic information when someone inserts their bank card. At the same time, a small camera records their PIN when they punch it in.

But people aren't defenceless. There are ways to stop yourself falling foul of skimming. The article provides six tips on protecting the money in your bank account:

  • Make sure you check the machine before you put your card in. You should be suspicious if you see scratches or any indication of glue or tape. The same goes if there's anything 'loose, crooked or damaged'.
  • When you're inputting your PIN, cover the keypad with your other hand, so if there is a hidden camera, it can't see what your number is.
  • When you can, use indoor cash machines - it's a lot harder for criminals to install skimmers on them.
  • Be aware that cash machines in 'touristy' areas might be more likely to be targeted by skimmers.
  • When you finish your transaction or hit 'cancel', your card should be returned. If it isn't, contact your card issuer straight away.
  • Finally, keep an eye on your bank statements. If you ever see withdrawals - or anything else - on there that you don't recognise, contact your bank account provider immediately.

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