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Thieves can steal thousands with illegal ATM skimmers. Here's how to stay safe

A cyber security expert explains some easy ways to protect your money and avoid being an ATM skimming victim.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Law enforcement in Northern California have recently busted four men in an ATM skimming ring that allegedly spanned from Sacramento to Reno.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department say the men stole debit card information from at least 40 people in the Sacramento area.

These illegal ATM skimming devices are often placed on the outside of machines to skim debit or credit cards as users swipe, the department said. Often, these devices are accompanied by hidden cameras that capture card users punching in their PIN numbers.

RELATED: Four arrested in ATM skimming ring based in Sacramento

“They can use that to withdraw money from your bank account or they can use that to go buy gift cards,” Caleb Kwong, a cyber security expert with the Sacramento-based Savant Solutions. “That’s usually what’s pretty common.”

In a matter of minutes, cyber thieves can steal hundreds or thousands of dollars from your bank account, Kwong added. However, there are at least two simple tips you can follow each time you go to an ATM or swipe your debit or credit cards.

First, visually observe the card-slot for anything that doesn’t seem to fit before placing your card inside. Next, feel the outside of the card reader for any loose items or anything that may seem out of place.

“They [skimmers] bulge out a little bit, they usually just attach right on and you can’t even tell the difference on it,” Kwong said. “So, usually I like to give a good tug on it to make sure that there’s nothing there.”

You’ll also want to be weary of any cameras on the machine. Police say thieves will often place hidden cameras that point toward the PIN pad, to capture users putting in their pins.

“What you need to do is cover your pin and start entering it in,” Kwong said.

If you see anything odd at a machine near you, you’re urged to contact local police.

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WATCH ALSO: VIDEO: Skimmers allegedly installing cameras, skimmer on ATM

This video, shared with ABC10 by the Sacramento Sheriff's Department, allegedly shows the installation of a camera to obtain pin numbers and of a skimmer being installed on an ATM.

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