05/10/2011 06:37 pm ET | Updated Jun 14, 2012

Watch Out: ATM Credit Card Scams

YIkes! A friend of mine got ATM skimmed. A simple trip to the cash machine has costs her hundreds of dollars (and that wasn't in surcharges).

I've often encountered lone ATM machines -- situated in the most obscure locations -- and pondered the security of the cash-dispensing apparatus. Should we be weary of inserting our credit cards into an ATM machine that rests outside of a sleazy liquor store or placed in an abandoned field? Besides the robbery of $5 surcharges, what else could possibly go wrong? Well, as in the case of my friend, you got to be aware of ATM skimming.

Dodgy ATM machines are a wet dream for scam artists. There are two types of popular scams in these no-good-niks' bag of scammy tricks. The first is attaching a card reader to the ATM machine. Positioned with a tiny hidden camera and placed where you swipe your credit card. The result: the card reader picks up your credit card info and the hidden camera notes your pin number. The credit card info is transferred to a hotel swipe key or gift card, your account is depleted, and crying occurs on your part. Wwhen an ATM machine is located in a remote, unattended area, it's easy for the scam artist to rig up a skimming device.

The second most popular ATM scam is a little more old school: bait-and switch. This is a credit card offer you should always hold on to: the scam artist will have a third party create a diversion at the ATM machine. When the mark's attention is diverted, he'll swap credit cards with the victim. Then, using skill learned when cheating in high school, he'll simply look over the mark's shoulder and get their pin number. Cash is then depleted. Crying follows.

Why can't these super-villains use their smarts for good? How many drunken evenings have you stumbled to an ATM machine and dispensed cash? The key is not to let your guard down. The solution to ATM credit card scam problem: retina scanning!