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ATM malware warning: New threat can empty the machine of cash Associated Press
A customer uses a U.S. Bank ATM in a Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt, File)

There’s a new threat at the ATM this Christmas and it has nothing to do with skimming devices!

Criminal gangs have developed a new kind of ATM malware that can empty out an ATM in minutes. Nicknamed “Alice,” this malware was identified by security company Trend Micro in November.

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What’s unique about Alice, according to Trend Micro, is that it’s very feature lite.

The malware doesn’t capture any of an individual customer’s account info. It won’t keep a secret record of what you do on the key pad when entering your PIN.

It’s simply designed to let criminals empty an ATM into the hands of a waiting money mule!

The means by which it operates is very technical, but here’s the link if you’re interested in learning more.

So if Alice is targeted at banks, rather than individual customers, why are we telling you about this malware? After all, it doesn’t pose a direct threat to you using an ATM…

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Well, here’s the thing: Alice demonstrates a trend in the criminal underworld of moving toward a more pervasive use of ATM malware than we’ve seen in the past.

“Up until recently, ATM malware was a niche category in the malware universe, used by a handful of criminal gangs in a highly targeted manner,” Trend Micro writes in a blog post. “We are now at a point where ATM malware is becoming mainstream.”

So while this malware doesn’t target you directly now, the next incarnation of it might.

Just remember, if you visit an ATM that’s out of cash this Christmas, maybe it wasn’t besieged by last-minute shoppers draining out every last drop of cash…maybe it was the handiwork of a criminal ring.

With all the talk around the new malware, it’s easy to forget that old-school techniques like skimming are more likely to post a threat to you.

For those who don’t know, skimming involves criminals putting an undetectable card reader device on an ATM.

The device then records your card info when you insert it. By getting that info and secretly recording your PIN via a hidden camera, the criminals can make a duplicate of your card and drain your bank account.

It’s been a tremendously successful criminal ploy. The rate of ATM fraud skyrocketed by 546% from 2014 to 2015, according to FICO.

Here are some ways to protect yourself from skimmers:

Grab the plastic slot on an ATM where you insert your card and shake it to make sure that it doesn’t come loose. If it’s moving up and down in your hand, there may be a skimmer attached.

Use your free hand to cover your other hand as you punch in your secret code: Remember, you may be on a crook’s candid camera or someone may be viewing you remotely with binoculars.

Consider setting a daily ATM limit: If you don’t carry huge money in your checking account, you might consider instituting a daily limit on ATM withdrawals. Check with your bank or credit union for more details.

Only use bank-affiliated ATMs: According to FICO, 60% of all skimming incidents occurred at non-bank ATMs — so try to avoid independent ATMs that aren’t associated with a particular bank — like those at gas stations and other random locations.

Never use a debit card at a gas station pump: If you have to use a debit card, go inside to pay.

Avoid using a debit card at other places that are popular for scammers: grocery stores, online shopping. Here are more places to never used a debit card.

If you can ditch your debit card for a credit card, do it: Credit cards come with a lot more protections than debit cards.

Check your bank statements daily: If your account is compromised, you may be able to catch it quickly and avoid more damage if you keep up with your accounts regularly.

Theo Thimou, Clark.com

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