Do you use your credit or debit cards at ATMs, gas stations, restaurants or retail stores?If your answer is Yes, then you can be victim of a card skimming too! When shopping, using ATMs, or filling up at the gas station, be mindful of card skimming as a theft risk. A quick visual and physical inspection of a credit card reader before inserting a credit card can reveal a card skimmer!
A skimmer is a device installed on a card reader that collects card numbers. Fraudulent purchases will be made later using the information recovered and obtained by the thieves. A skimming scam is most commonly committed at gas stations and ATMs, but it can also occur in retail stores or restaurants.
Sometimes, cardholders enter their PIN numbers into ATMs while a camera records their actions. Additionally, it is possible to steal PIN numbers by putting fake keypads over real ATM keypads. Since thieves can make their devices blend in or match the style of the card readers, skimmers can be hard to spot.
How to Identify a Skimmer?
Despite the difficulty of spotting a skimming device, it can be identified by visual and physical inspection.
Make sure that your ATM or gas pump’s card reader and the panel underneath it are aligned before using it. Skimmers are often placed on top of card readers, making them stick out at odd angles or hiding arrows in panels. Compare your card reader to those at a nearby ATM or gas pump to make sure it is the same.
The cabinet panel for gas pumps should have security tape or a sticker covering it. Use the card reader only if the tape does not appear ripped or broken. It may have been altered by a thief. Ensure nothing is already inserted inside the card reader. If there is, it may contain a thin plastic circuit board that steals the card’s information.
It is often possible to detect fraudulent devices just by physically inspecting a card reader and keypad. Take a feel around the reader and wiggle it to see if it can come out easily. An example of a card skimming device can be seen on the FTC’s website.
Since authentic card readers are manufactured robustly, if any part of the reader can easily move, it was probably installed illegally by a thief. It is advisable not to use an ATM whose keypad is difficult to push. Instead, find another ATM.
There are other ways to skim cards. An example is having a card skimmer installed on a retail store’s point-of-sale (POS) system, which is much harder for thieves to do. Verify that the card reader looks as it should. There is no way to tell whether a restaurant is involved in a scam because cards are often given to the server, who swipes the card through a skimmer before giving it back to the customer.
How to Avoid Card Skimmers
Be cautious when you use a credit card to buy gas or get cash from an ATM. Pay for gas inside with the cashier and let them know there may be a skimmer installed at the pump if any part of a pump’s card reader appears suspicious.
It is better to use an ATM located inside a bank, rather than one that is located inside a convenience store or bar. When entering a pin, cover your fingers with the other hand to block potential cameras. Never give a card to a credit card cleaner who claims to be able to clean the magnetic stripe or chip on a card so that it can be read more easily. Often, these are scams designed to steal credit card information.
When a credit card is skimmed, what happens?
In this case, thieves can make fake credit cards, make online purchases using stolen credit card information, or sell the stolen information. Fortunately, fraudulent charges on a credit card are easier to dispute charges made using debit card information.
There are several credit cards with zero liability policies, meaning the cardholder does not have to repay the issuer in the event of fraud. Credits for the fraudulent amount are often deposited back into the cardholder’s account and reflected on monthly statements.
Consider using a credit card instead of a debit card when making purchases at gas stations to benefit from this extra protection. If possible, you should pay at the gas station’s cashier, where it is less likely that the POS system has been compromised.
Check bank statements often or (even better) log online to access your account and monitor credit card activity. By calling the number on the back of the card, you can report suspicious activity as soon as possible. The cardholder of some credit cards can receive proactive alerts in case of potential fraudulent charges. The next step is to receive a new credit card by mail with a new card number.