Don’t Count Out “Shoulder Surfers”


I hear myself telling callers often that fraudsters use the latest technology to steal our identities or personal and financial information. We’ve discussed credit card skimming, botnets, threats via wifi, and the importance of taking precautions while online to keep your children safe.

But today I saw a flyer from Old National Bank and remembered the low-tech methods scammers use to steal our information:

Be alert for ‘shoulder surfers’.

Shoulder surfing is the oldest ATM scam in the book. In its most basic form*, it involves a thief trying to look over your shoulder to memorize the PIN you are entering.

Don’t fall victim. Be wary of anyone who seems to be lurking around an ATM machine or sanding unusually close behind you.  Also watch out for someone fumbling with a cell phone in a suspicious way; they could be trying to take photos of your fingers on the key pad.

Of course, one could argue that consumer awareness has made this practice obsolete.  After a 2008 New York Times article and others, I’m sure many of you became conscious of the proximity between you and the person behind you at the ATM, thereby deterring shoulder surfers.

But I think we could all agree that scammers look for individuals who drop their guard. That is why it is something I still think about when shopping.  Even after I was scolded by a woman who, while standing behind in line, let me know she was offended that I would behave as if she was stealing my pin number.

Better to be safe than sorry.

*Check out some riffs on shoulder surfing.


Written by

Beth was Director of BBB Services and wrote for the consumer education blog from 2008 to 2011. Beth also managed projects of the Tri-State Better Business Bureau Foundation, including the Student of Integrity Scholarship and senior citizen education programs, and she worked with local charities as a part of our charity reporting service.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a Reply

*