The Danger of ATM Skimmers

Do you ever wonder how credit card fraud is committed? While there are many ways out there that thieves can get your account information, skimming devices are becoming ever more prevalent. So what is a skimming device? A skimming device is an electronic device placed on or in ATMs or card readers with the purpose of stealing or “skimming” the information off of the magnetic strip. Skimmers are generally made up of two components, the first is used to capture the information on the magnetic script, and the second is used to capture the PIN number.

These devices can be as simple as a small chip placed inside of a card reader, or as complex as a false cover that mimics the card reader. Skimmers can be used in conjunction with small cameras to capture PIN numbers of the skimmed cards. Some skimmers work with a false key pad instead of a camera to steal the PIN numbers.

With all of the places that accept cards how are you supposed to know where these skimmers might be? There are two places that seem to be targeted more than others.

ATMs- With more and more people opting to carry cards instead of cash, ATMs are the perfect spot for scammers to place skimmers. Withdrawing money from an ATM requires both swiping your card and entering your PIN number, both of which are needed to skim the account information. ATMs can also be out of the way and do not require face to face interaction. This gives thieves the opportunity to install these devices without having to interact with anyone, and allows them to return to retrieve the device without being noticed.

Gas pumps- The second place that scammers like to place skimmers is on gas pumps. More and more people pay at the pump which gives thieves a large pool of potential targets, and again, these do not require face to face interaction with anyone. A scammer could drive up, get gas, and install a device while blending in and without anyone noticing. After a few days they could then return to the pump and retrieve the skimmer without anyone being the wiser.

Now more than ever it pays to be vigilant with your debit and credit cards. It can be hassle to report your card stolen, deal with the fraud process if your card was used, and to update reoccurring payments your card was on file for. Some signs to watch out for are suspicious attachments to an ATM or gas pump such as off-color pieces of plastic on the device, loose keypads and loose card skimmers.

Scammers are becoming more and more creative every day, and it can be hard to detect a skimmer. If you are suspicious of a card reader, report it to the bank that owns the ATM or the gas station if it is on a gas pump. If you believe your debit or credit card was compromised, contact your financial institution to have them block all activity and replace your cards.

3 Types of Identity Theft College Students Should Be Aware Of

By: Eva Velasquez

Identity theft is one of the hardest-hitting crimes that consumers face, largely because it’s easy to pull off. Whether through old-fashioned means like dumpster-diving or stealing your driver’s license, or through more sophisticated cyber crimes like hacking into a university network, thieves can make off with your entire identity before you even know your information was compromised.

There are a lot of steps that college students can take to prevent this crime. Passcode and password locking their hardware, shredding those pesky pre-approved credit card offers, locking their dorm rooms … the list goes on. But what too many college students aren’t aware of is the wide variety of crimes that fall under identity theft.

Most individuals typically envision identity theft as someone using their credit card or opening a new account in their name. And that’s still a major threat, with the overwhelming majority of cases involving financial identity theft. But don’t be fooled into thinking your identity is safe just because your credit card hasn’t been compromised.

  • Criminal identity theft: College students are particularly susceptible to criminal identity theft, considering they live near so many strangers. If someone in your dorm or apartment building uses your identity at the time of arrest—simply because they know your name, apartment number or other minor details—you could be left facing charges for the unresolved issue. If this person happens to have borrowed or stolen your driver’s license, perhaps because you’re old enough to purchase alcohol and they’re not, then they may even be able to provide your complete identity to the police. You never find out about the incident, and therefore you never resolve it until a warrant is issued for your arrest.
  • Medical identity theft: Much like criminal identity theft, college students have to safeguard their identities against people who want to use them to secure medical care. It might be something that seems harmless on the surface. Maybe, a girl in your building needs a way to access birth control without alerting her parents. But it can also be something very serious, such as someone stealing your identity in order to get a prescription for controlled substances. Not only can your medical record permanently reflect care that you never received, but you could find yourself involved in a crime if those prescriptions are then used for illegal distribution.
  • Internet takeover: One of the scariest identity theft crimes for young people to envision just might be internet takeover. While the other forms of the crime are alarming, they can more easily be resolved. But when someone takes over your technology or gains access to your accounts, the fear of long-term damage is very real. They may just lock you out of your accounts for the fun of it, but it could lead to expulsion and lost job opportunities if a hacker takes over your university account and deletes your work, or accesses your Facebook account and uses it to post hate speech, embarrassing photos, or other potentially harmful content.

So what are college students supposed to do to protect their identities? The first step is to understand the different ways identity theft can hurt you. From there, it’s important to safeguard your information, your documents, even your computer, and to keep others from nabbing your sensitive data. Never give out your university passwords, your account passwords, or even your personal documents. You can be implicated in any crimes that are committed under your identity, and you can face lifelong

Eva Velasquez is president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center