Card Skimming: Can it Happen to You?
Have you swiped your credit or debit card recently at a gas pump, ATM or to pay for a movie rental? Then yes, it’s possible card skimming can happen to you.
Card skimming occurs when card-reading technology is placed over an existing card reader, most commonly at an ATM or a gas station pump. The card-reading device will capture your card’s information when it is swiped. The risk of card skimming continues to grow as technology makes card reading devices smaller, less noticeable and more powerful.
Cameras and/or keypad recorders may also be used in card skimming plots to record your personal identification number (PIN). With your debit card information and PIN number, thieves have the information they need to make unauthorized purchases and possibly drain your account.
To help reduce the possibility of card skimming, your Better Business Bureau offers this advice:
- Inspect the card reader – If the card reader looks damaged or bulky, give it a wiggle. If the device can be removed, alert local authorities.
- Choose ATMs wisely – Avoid using ATMs in poorly lit areas and standalone ATMs in well-traveled, public places. Thieves may target machines that are not monitored by surveillance cameras or regularly inspected by owners.
- Protect your PIN – When entering your PIN, cover the keypad with your other hand to protect your personal information from any potential cameras in the vicinity. If the keypad appears loose, it could be a sign of a keypad recorder. Also, change your PIN occasionally.
- Monitor your statements – Regularly review your financial statements for inaccuracies and fraudulent purchases. Consumer protections for debit and credit cards vary, but typically the sooner suspicious activity is reported, the easier it is to remedy. Waiting to report fraudulent activity on a debit card has the potential to be financially devastating.
- Skimmers are more likely placed on stations where they are not as easily detected by employees.
Even the most careful consumers can fall victim to card skimming. It can be difficult to trace where the skimming took place, especially if the credit or debit card is used often. Thieves may leave a card-skimming device in one location for only a short time before moving it to a new location.