Beware of card skimming
You pull up to the gas station, take out your credit card and don’t think twice about it. However, credit card skimming seems to be more prevalent around the holidays. “Look to make sure there is only one slot or that there isn’t a piece of machinery around the slot to capture the information,” cautioned Schaffer.
Thieves can attach a tiny strip of film to a card reader and download the information located inside the card’s magnetic strip to create a duplicate card.
Also be sure to monitor credit card statements and bank accounts to ensure there are no unauthorized purchases. Frequently, thieves will make a small purchase to see if it can go undetected before moving to a larger one.
Every swipe is read as a keyboard entry, with no extra setup required. More advanced devices to steal your information are installed by criminals directly on to ATMs and credit card readers. These are called skimmers, and if you're careful you can keep from being victimized by these insidious devices.
What Are Skimmers?
Skimmers are are essentially malicious card readers that grab the data off the card's magnetic stripe attached to the real payment terminals so that they can harvest data from every person that swipes their cards. The thief has to come back to the compromised machine to pick up the file containing all the stolen data, but with that information in hand he can create cloned cards or just break into bank accounts to steal money. Perhaps the scariest part is that some skimmers don't prevent the ATM or credit card reader from functioning properly.
Classic skimming attacks are here to stay, and will likely continue to be a problem even after banks make the shift to chip cards. Even if the cards have a chip, the data will still be on the card's magnetic strip in order to be backwards compatible with systems that won't be able to handle the chip, he told us. Now, months after the U.S. rollout of EMV chip cards, some merchants still require customers to use the magstripe.
The typical ATM skimmer is a device smaller than a deck of cards that fits over the existing card reader. Most of the time, the attackers will also place a hidden camera somewhere in the vicinity with a view of the number pad in order to record personal-identification-numbers, or PINs. The camera may be in the card reader, mounted at the top of the ATM, or even just to the side inside a plastic case holding brochures. Some criminals may install a fake PIN pad over the actual keyboard to capture the PIN directly, bypassing the need for a camera.
Check for Tampering
When you approach an ATM, check for some obvious signs of tampering at the top of the ATM, near the speakers, the side of the screen, the card reader itself, and the keyboard. If something looks different, such as a different color or material, graphics that aren't aligned correctly, or anything else that doesn't look right, don't use that ATM. The same is true for credit card readers.
If you're at the bank, it's a good idea to quickly take a look at the ATM next to yours and compare them both. If there are any obvious differences, don't use either one, and report the suspicious tampering to your bank. For example, if one ATM has a flashing card entry to show where you should insert the ATM card and the other ATM has a plain reader slot, you know something is wrong. Since most skimmers are glued on top of the existing reader, they will obscure the flashing indicator.
If the keyboard doesn't feel right—too thick, perhaps—then there may be a PIN-snatching overlay, so don't use it.
Suzanne Brown Insurance Agency
A Texas Independent Insurance Agency with over 40 insurance carriers