Card skimming fraud is a type of fraud that uses devices to read your credit card and steal your pin or password. It’s a type of theft that frequently happens at ATM machines, but it also is common at gas stations and any place that you swipe the magnetic strip of a credit or debit card. The latest scene of the crime are self-checkout stations in supermarkets.
The problem is that data on your credit card is stored in magnetic strip on the back of your card and the magnetic strip is not encrypted. Cheap devices are readily available to scan that data. Devices used to be large and unwieldy, but have become increasingly smaller and cheaper. These devices can be cleverly disguised and affixed to retail outlets that read your cards. They can also be used anyplace your card is scanned.
To foil card skimming fraud, new cards contain chips with encrypted data so those cards are safer in theory. We say “in theory” because it’s an enormous undertaking for banks, gas stations and retailers to replace the card reader stations and convert to chip-enabled card readers, so many still rely on reading magnetic strips. As long as your credit cards have a magnetic strip, they are still insecure.
This ABC News video clip is about 8 minutes long – a good investment for a quick education about what skimming is, how to spot it and steps to take to prevent it.
Here are skimming fraud prevention tips we’ve gleaned from the experts over the years.
- Use well lit, well-trafficked ATMS and gas stations with security cameras; go inside banks; be particularly careful at freestanding ATMs.
- When using an ATM or paying at the gas pump, check for anything unusual and be alert for any devices that may be affixed. Look for anything that protrudes from or seems affixed to the machine, any color differences, any unusual stickers. Look for nearby mirrors, pamphlet holders, speakers, or devices that could house a camera.
- Always cover the keypad with your hand to shield from any cameras that may be trying to record your PIN. It’s also a good idea to touch several keys with your fingers to thwart anyone trying to grab your pin via infrared heat detector readers.
- Don’t let anyone “help you” at an ATM or credit card reader.
- When paying at a restaurant or any retail outlet, don’t let anyone walk away with your card, have them read the card in your presence so that they don’t harvest your information with a small pocket-skimmer.
- Check your bank account regularly to ensure funds have not been taken.
- If you spot anything suspicious at an ATM or a self-service gas or grocery kiosk, alert the business or the police right away.