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.