Beware of Credit Card Skimmers

A credit card skimmer is a portable capture device that is attached in front of or on top of the legitimate scanner. The skimmer passively records the card data as you insert your credit card into the real scanner. After your information has been recorded, it is usually then sold to other scammers on the black market or converted into a counterfeit card and used to make fraudulent purchases.

Watch the video: Men Place Card Skimmer on ATM at Store Machine:

Skimmer technology has become cheaper and more sophisticated over the years. Thieves can easily purchase these devices on the web for very little cost.

Because it is difficult to know when your card has been skimmed, you may not find out unless you review your financial statements or get a call from your card provider.

“Some skimmers capture the card information using a magnetic reader and use a miniature camera to record you typing in your PIN number. Some skimmers will even go so far as to place a secondary keypad over top of the actual keypad. The secondary keypad captures your PIN number and records it while passing your input to the real keypad.”1

Here are a few tips to keep in mind…

Be aware of your surroundings. Although skimming can occur just about anywhere, one should be especially careful at ATMs, restaurants, bars, and gas pumps. A cybercriminal could place a tiny camera in an ATM, for example, which would skim your keypad entry and store the information for later use. Bolder thieves use a slim, insidious electronic device on the swiping area of the card reader to steal its data. Once the thief has your card information, a clone of your card can be made within a couple of hours.

“Identity thieves like to target places that are unattended. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Scan the area before using your card. Thieves will often put a skimming device on gas pumps that are farthest from the store, or at an ATM that is not well lit. It is also important to look at the card reader carefully – give it a good tug or shake it. If thieves have used an overlay, it is usually stuck on with glue or tape.”2

At an ATM it is important to look around for security cameras. Criminals will typically place one in a position where it can capture PIN information as you type it in. Regardless of where you are, if anything looks different on the card reader, or appears to have any signs of tape or scratches on it, it could be a sign of tampering. If you see something that looks suspicious, don’t use it and report it to authorities.

Protect your PIN. Your personal identification number (PIN) is vital information to cybercriminals; if they can access this small piece of information, it is enough for them to take control of your account. So, be mindful of this and keep your eyes open to protect yourself. Look at the surrounding area for anything or anyone suspicious before you enter your PIN. Go with your instinct; if you feel unsafe, do not use your card at that location.

Make it difficult for criminals. Ask your financial institution about features that will track the location of both your card and phone. When someone attempts a transaction, the card company compares the location of the phone with where the card is being used. If the card and phone locations don’t match, the card company will deny the transaction.

Request a lower credit limit:  It is an effective and easy countermeasure for credit card skimming. A lower credit card limit ensures lower risks in case your card gets skimmed.

Opt for credit. It is usually safer to use a credit card versus a debit bard because it is easier to stop payment or cancel a payment than it is when the money is already taken out of your account. If you use your debit card at places such as the gas pump, you often have the option to use the card as a credit or a debit card. If you choose the credit option, you’ll likely be able to avoid entering your PIN. This can add a layer of safety. If there is a card skimmer camera nearby, set up to detect PIN information; yours won’t be recorded. Watch your account. Routinely check through all your transactions. Keep track of your account in a detailed manner. If you need to, use a separate personal notebook for keeping a log of your account transactions and other balance related information. Doing these things will help you to take prompt action should you find any discrepancies.

Delete account information online. Cyber-skimmers are another big threat. Never save any of your credit card and account information online. Always use trusted merchants and payment sites while engaging in online transactions using your card. If you have your card details saved in any online portal, it is advisable to have that information deleted. Prevention is always better than cure. You never know when your account details may be compromised if they are stored online.

Keep your cards safe. Never lose sight of your credit cards; it’s wise to put them in a safe or protected place when you’re not using them. If your cards are kept in a visible or easy-to-access spot like around your desk at work or in a credit card holder attached to your phone, it becomes easier for someone to find them and steal your information.

By being aware of your surroundings and following a few simple cautionary steps that we’ve outlined certainly can lessen the chances of falling prey to a skimming attack, 3However, if you ever experience a skimming attack, here is what to do:

  • Call the police. Make a police report and hang on to the police report number.
  • Contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately and tell them your card data has been stolen. If you don’t make a report quickly, you may be liable for some or all of the unauthorized charges.
  • If you file a report swiftly, federal law caps your liability at $50. Most credit cards voluntarily go further, and won’t charge you at all — again, if you report quickly.
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian – to request a security freeze, which prevents new credit authorizations without your consent. Visit the website: It’s an institution created in response to a large number of identity theft victims and the cost incurred to them. Through the site, which was mandated by federal law in response to consumer outcry, you are entitled to receive one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus.”