CREDIT CARD SKIMMING
We all know about thieves stealing our credit cards from our wallet and using them fraudulently. Did you know there is another way thieves steal our credit card information without touching our wallets? Credit card skimming is an electronic method of capturing a victim’s personal information used by identity thieves.
How Credit Card Skimming Works
A credit card skimmer is a small device used to scan a credit or debit card’s magnetic strip. Once scanned, the skimmer copies all the information on the magnetic strip. The information is then sent via Bluetooth or the thief returns to remove the skimmer where the information is stored. Thieves utilize these skimmers in a variety of locations to obtain information:
- ATM’s – There are two devices used for ATM skimming. First, a credit card reader is placed over the ATM’s real card slot. When a card is placed in the slot, the skimmer reads the magnetic strip and copies all the data. Second, a small camera is placed on the ATM in order to record the security pin number. The ATM’s at gas stations and stand alone locations are generally easier to be utilized for this scam.
- Restaurants – Everyone has paid for a meal at a restaurant on a credit or debit card. We get the bill from the waiter/waitress and they walk away with our card. Thieves recruit individuals to work at these restaurants. When they walk away with the card, they scan it through the skimmer to obtain the card information.
- Retailers – While it is more difficult for thieves to access retailer’s credit card machines, they have found ways around this difficulty. Thieves have targeted self-checkout lanes. They have easy access to install the skimmer and walk away in just a few seconds.
- Wireless Skimmers – The upcoming trend for thieves are wireless skimmers. These skimmers only have to be in close range of the credit card and the machine where the card is being used. Wireless skimmers pick up on the transmitters used between the credit card and the machine.
How to Detect a Credit Card Skimmer
Credit Card Skimmers are small and generally undetectable; however, if we have the proper knowledge, we may be able to recognize these skimmers before placing our cards in the slot. Although there isn’t an easy way to detect a skimmer, there are some things to look for when using your credit card:
- When at an ATM, check for any tampering with the machine. If the slot where you place your card seems extra large or protruding out too far, pull on it to see if it comes out.
- Look around the location for any strange objects. If they do not seem to fit with the location or do not belong, there could be a small camera in the item.
- If you are at a location and something doesn’t seem right, turn the Bluetooth on your phone and check for any strange devices trying to connect to your phone. These usually will be a long grouping of numbers or letters.
- Skimmers are usually smaller than a deck of cards and they fit onto the card reader slot as if they belong. If there is another terminal near, compare the two if you feel something is off.
How to Protect Yourself from Being a Victim
Credit Card Skimmer Thieves rely on the fact that we are all too busy and rushed to notice little things like a skimmer on an ATM or credit card machine. While we can attempt to detect skimmers when utilizing credit card machines, there are other ways to keep ourselves from being victims:
- Take the extra time to go into your financial institution and withdrawal money from the teller instead of the ATM.
- If you must use an ATM, go to a bank with the ATM in a well lit area. Avoid gas station ATM’s or stand alone ATM’s.
- Always cover the keypad when entering your pin number. If you cover it well enough, even a small camera will not be able to pick it up.
- Try to pay with cash as often as possible. I know it’s a pain, but it will protect you from card card theft and help you budget your money better. If paying with cash, the waiter/waitress at the restaurant will be unable to do anything fraudulent as well.
- Check your bank account often. Ensure all charges are legitimate. If you see anything odd, report it to your bank immediately.
- Trust your gut. If something feels off, it probably is off. Leave the location and go elsewhere.
Credit Card Skimmers are being technologically advanced all the time. Although we can’t always ensure our safety, we can start with these few tips and tricks to protect ourselves and always stay informed. Lauth Investigations International is a private investigation firm assisting individuals determine if they have been victims credit card fraud and identity theft. Asset searches and Background checks on yourself will ensure your identity is your own and no one else is using your information.