Mark Pribish

Don't get ripped off by credit card skimming

By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

When you swipe your credit or debit card, there is always a risk of giving ID-theft criminals what they need to steal your money through what is known as "skimming."

Criminals install electronic devices at locations at which we use cards, such as an ATM, a grocery store or a gas pump. As you use your card for valid transactions, the device copies your credit or debit account information in the magnetic strip on the back of your card. This is skimming.

Recent news reports have shown that ID-theft criminals are installing card skimmers at bank ATMs and point-of sale-terminals. They deliver an opportunity to conduct illegal transactions - in your name, from your accounts.

The prize that ID-theft criminals value most is capturing debit card data complete with personal identification numbers. This allows them to make counterfeit cards to withdraw cash directly from your bank accounts at ATMs.

That said, credit and debit card transactions continue to be a big target for ID-theft criminals. These four types of skimming fraud lead the way:

  • Pay-at-the-pump skimming. Devices are secretly placed inside the gas pump. Often these devices include a small video camera that records you as you enter your PIN or billing ZIP code. To make matters worse, currently there are approximately four universal keys that open the majority of gas pumps in the US. Criminals are aware of this and often duplicate these keys to install the skimmers.
  • ATM skimming. Unlike gas pumps, financial institution ATMs require unique keys and codes. However, law enforcement has documented multiple methods of ATM skimming where criminals replace PIN pads on ATMs with manipulated devices that collect card details and PINs as customers use their cards.
  • Point-of-sale skimming. POS skimming may occur at retail stores where customers swipe their credit/debit cards using point-of-sale terminals. If tampered with by ID-theft criminals, the skimmer can record all information for every credit and debit card processed through the card reader.
  • Magnetic-card reader skimming. This occurs when your card is out of your sight, such as at a restaurant or in a drive-through, as a dishonest employee can swipe your card through a card reader that stores the information from the magnetic strip, allowing for the creation of a fraudulent credit/debit card.

Here are recommendations to reduce the risk of being a skimming victim:

  • Never allow your debit card to be swiped away from your view.
  • Cover PIN and ZIP code entries when in public.
  • When using a debit card, do not type in your PIN; instead, select the credit option as consumers have greater protection under credit-card transaction laws.

Be aware that skimming is happening, and do your part to reduce the chances that you'll become a victim.


To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.


Skimmers Steal Customer Card Info at Stores

Shopping at some of your favorite stores may cost you more than what you bargained for.

May 27, 2016

Next time you use the self-checkout lane at a store, be sure to take a second look at the machine you use to swipe your credit or debit card. Scammers are installing "skimmers," devices that collect the data from credit, debit or ATM cards, on these machines.

How the Scam Works:

You are checking out at the supermarket or another large store, and you decide to use the self-checkout lane. You ring up your purchases and swipe your credit or debit card to pay the bill. You may not notice anything strange about the card processor, but scammers have attached a skimmer to some registers. These devices "skim" your card's information off the magnetic strip.

Skimmers are most commonly installed on ATM card readers. But in the past few months, several big box stores have found them attached to the payment processors in self-checkout aisles. Be careful when using these lanes and follow the advice below for spotting a skimmer.

Protect Yourself from a Skimmer:

  • Pay with a credit card or cash: You aren't liable for fraudulent charges on your credit card (but be sure to report them to your bank). But if scammers gain your debit card info, they may be able to drain your account.
  • Protect your PIN. Place your hand or a piece of paper over the keypad when entering your number. Some scammers set up a video camera nearby to record customers entering their PINs.
  • Look for signs of skimmers. Tape is often used to attach the skimming devices; if something looks odd, wiggle it to make sure it doesn't come loose.
  • Use chip readers when available: The new credit/debit card processors -- which require you to "dip" a chip card instead of swipe the magnetic stripe -- are more secure. Check to see that your credit and debit cards have them, and use them whenever possible.
  • Be wary of strange signs. Some con artists attach signs to ATMs or card processors providing alternate instructions, such as telling users to swipe their card on a separate reader first. If something looks out of place, find a different machine and report it to the store manager or the police.

For More Information

Read more about the scam on Krebs on Security, a blog about computer security run by former Washington Post reporter Brian Krebs.

Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau - for more information visit http://www.bbb.org/phoenix/news-events/

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.