ATM skimmers have grown more popular in the United States over the past couple of years. Criminals have become savvier than ever, which means they can steal your credit and debit card information right from your local ATM machine. Skimmers are new devices that make it easier than ever for thieves to gain access to your PIN number while you’re typing it.

An ATM skimmer is typically difficult to spot. It is a tiny electronic device that’s placed directly over the card reader of an ATM. It’s almost impossible to see and looks like it’s part of the machine. However, it records your credit or debit card information so that criminals can use it.

It’s important to be safe and smart when you go to the ATM. Immediately check the machine for any obvious signs of tampering, including by the side of the screen, the keyboard, the top, near the speakers and of course, the card reader. If anything looks out of place or has a different color, material or font where graphics are present, avoid using the ATM. If you’re at the bank and there are multiple ATMs, look at other ones to compare the way they look. You may even want to touch the various parts of the ATM to see if anything jiggles. If anything does jiggle, avoid using the machine.

These days, many banks are upgrading their ATMs and using a card reader that is sideways. That’s making it more difficult for criminals to rely on skimmers. However, you can use your wits even further while using the ATM. First of all, you should check the keypad to ensure that it’s actually part of the machine. In many instances, a criminal will place a fake one on top of the real one. You can also cover the keypad with your free hand while entering your PIN number.

Another thing to keep in mind about ATM skimmers is that thieves usually avoid installing them on machines that aren’t in very busy locations. ATMs located inside banks and credit unions are usually safer as well because there are more security cameras present. ATMs that are outdoors are generally the ones more frequently targeted.

If you don’t notice a skimmer but end up having your information stolen, take immediate action. As soon as theft is reported to your bank or credit card company, you will not be held responsible for the stolen amount and your money will be returned. Additionally, if you have a credit card, you should use it whenever you can because it can help to prevent loss of money. With a debit card, your funds are immediately lost if thieves get hold of your information.

Always be aware of anything that doesn’t look right about an ATM. If you suspect something is off, avoid using the machine. It’s better to be safe than sorry.