Global Cash Machine Skimming Attacks Are in Decline – But More Lucrative Than Ever

By Jamie Condliffe on at

In the last decade, cash-machine skimmers have risen from fictional threat to very real crime. Now, the European ATM Security Team has announced that the total number of skimming attacks around the world is falling – but the total gains made by crooks continues to rise.

An analysis of autobank attacks in 2014 reveals that the number of skimming hits reported around the world has fallen from 5,822 in 2013 to 5,631 in 2014—a modest decline of 3 per cent. In fact, the total number of cash machine-related fraud attacks has dropped massively, from 21,346 last year to 15,702 this year – a fall of 26 per cent and the lowest level since 2010.

It's thought that the decline in total attacks is due to a massive 95 per cent drop in Transaction Reversal Fraud – where crooks take a couple of notes but let it swallow the rest – and a 31 per cent fall in cash-trapping attacks.

But it's not all good news. The total losses due to cash-machine fraud are up 13 per cent to $300 million (£202 million). That's mainly driven by a surge in losses from skimming, which have risen by 18 per cent and account for $255 million (£172 million) of those losses.

However, losses in Europe, where the implementation of Chip and PIN cards is widespread, fell, so that means it's the US and Asia-Pacific regions that are on the receiving end of a lot of the fraud.

"The rise in international skimming losses is not being seen in European countries where regional card blocking, often known as geo-blocking, has been widely implemented," explained the European ATM Security Team's executive director Lachlan Gunn in a press release. "Keeping an active magnetic stripe on a European [Chip and PIN] card continues to make that card vulnerable to card skimming and geo-blocking significantly reduces the risk of successful compromise."

Images by Catatronic under Creative Commons licence