How to Avoid Credit Card Skimmers
Not too long ago the city was shaken with news about foreigners skimming at automated teller machines (ATM) of certain banks. It sent many depositors with ATM accounts into panic. Credit card holders were alarmed, as well.
Before the ATM skimming incident, there had already been police arrests of members of credit card syndicates. The modus operandi of the criminals baffled ordinary credit card holders. One victim who rarely let his credit card off his sight wondered how the bad guys gained access to his credit card information.
There are many ways to do it, in fact. One possibility is that the criminals may have a conduit in places where credit cards are often used. It could be the waiter at the restaurant or the cashier at the store who get one’s card info using a device called a credit card skimmer.
A credit card skimmer is a portable capture device that is attached in front of or on top of the legitimate scanner. The skimmer passively records the card data when the credit card is inserted into the real scanner.
Andy O'Donnell, writing at www. lifewire.com, observes that credit card thieves will often temporarily affix the card skimmer device to gas pumps, ATMs, or other convenient self-service point-of-sale terminals. The bad guys, he writes, like to do their trade at gas pumps and ATMs because it’s easy to retrieve their skimmers from there and these points generally receive a lot of traffic.
Skimmer technology, O’Donnell notes, has become cheaper and more sophisticated over the past years. He explains that “some skimmers capture the card information using a magnetic reader and use a miniature camera to record you typing in your PIN number. Some skimmers will even go so far as to place a secondary keypad over the top of the actual keypad. The secondary keypad captures your PIN number and records it while passing your input to the real keypad.”
Now the question: Is there a way to keep safe from credit card skimmers? O’Donnell says it is possible to greatly minimize, if not totally eliminate, the possibility of being victimized. He suggests certain precautions to be taken:
Inspect the card reader and the area near the PIN pad. Many banks and merchants realize that skimming is on the rise and will often post a picture of what the real device is supposed to look like so clients will see if there is something attached that is not supposed to be there if If you think the scanning device doesn't look like it matches the machine's color and style, it might be a skimmer.
Look at other nearby gas pumps or ATM card readers to see if they match the one you are using. Unless skimmers are running a large operation, they probably are only skimming at one gas pump at a time at the station you are using. Look at the pump next to yours to see if the card reader and setup look different. If they do, then you might have just spotted a skimmer.
Trust your instincts. If in doubt, use another pump or ATM somewhere else. The human brain is excellent at recognizing things that seem out of place. If you get a sense that something looks off about the ATM you are about to use, you might be better off using one that you feel more comfortable with.
Avoid using your PIN number at the gas pump. When you pay at the pump with your debit or credit card, you usually have the option to use it as a credit or a debit card. It's best to choose the credit option that allows you to avoid entering your PIN in sight of a card skimmer camera. Even if there is not a card skimmer camera in sight, someone could be watching you enter your PIN and could subsequently mug you and take your card to the nearest ATM to withdraw some cash.
Keep an eye on your accounts. If you suspect that you might have had your card skimmed. Keep an eye on your account balance and report any suspicious activity immediately.