What Is Card Skimmer?
The typical card 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 view of the number pad in order to record personal identification numbers, or PINs. The camera may be in the card reader, or at the top of the ATM. Some criminals may install a fake PIN pad over the actual keyboard to capture the PIN directly. This gives the thief all the information needed to make fake cards.
Credit card skimmers are often placed over the card swipe mechanism on ATMs and gas stations, but the skimmers can be placed over almost any type of credit card reader. Skimmers are malicious card readers attached to the real payment terminals. So that they can gain data from every person that swipes their cards. The thief often 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 break into bank accounts to steal money.
Occasionally, certain retail and restaurant workers who handle credit cards are recruited to be part of a skimming ring. These workers use a handheld device to skim your credit card during a normal transaction. When you are pumping gas or grabbing some money for lunch out of the ATM, the last thing you want to worry about is your card information getting stolen.
Why Card Skimmer Is a Dangerous Treat?
Whenever customers swipe their credit cards on that terminal, the skimmer will record and store the card details in it. Later, criminal will return and simply collect the skimmer, or will use a Bluetooth device to transfer the collected data. With the stolen data from the victim card, criminals can make online purchases. Perhaps the scariest part is that skimmers don’t prevent the ATM or credit card reader from functioning properly.
Since it takes just 2 or 3 seconds to install the skimmer, the crooks might have installed hundreds or thousands of such skimming devices to collect credit card details of hundreds of thousands of people.
So, you are advised to be careful when swiping your cards on payment terminals. Moreover, if you notice any unusual payment or charge you do not recognize on your account statement, contact your bank as soon as possible.
How “Skimmers” Steal Credit Card Data?
Hackers attach small hardware which is skimming device to the card reader that sweeps up customers’ payment card data when they use their cards at a store. Hackers use the data to create fake cards and make illegal purchases.
Skimming is one of the leading types of fraud. A skimming device can fit in the palm of a dishonest retail employee. Data thieves also slip skimmers into your point-of-sale card reader. Some skimmers have tiny cameras that capture PINs entered by unsuspecting customers. Make sure that anyone coming to service your equipment is known and planned for. This is the common way through which most of these skimmers are installed.
How to Identify a Card Skimmer?
Credit card skimming devices crafted to blend in seamlessly with the machine it’s placed on. You may not notice anything out of the ordinary unless you’re specifically looking for a skimming device. Try to look out for credit card skimmers anywhere you swipe your credit card, especially at gas stations and ATMs.
You need to become familiar with the look and feel of regular credit card readers. Actually, it can help you identify when there’s something wrong. Here are some ways to detect a credit card skimming device:
A credit card reader that sticks out far past the panel
Skimmers are designed to fit over the existing credit card reader. So if you notice a credit card reader that protrudes outside the face of the rest of the machine, it may be a skimmer.
This is especially the case when an additional part seems to be added to the rest of the credit card reader.
At a gas station, you can compare a suspicious credit card reader to the readers at nearby pumps. If something looks out of the ordinary, avoid paying at the pump. Pay inside or go to another gas station.
Parts of the credit card reader are loose or move when jiggled
The credit card reader should be securely in place. Moving parts are a sign the reader has been tampered with or that a skimming device has been added to the existing reader.
A broken security seal
Gas stations often place a security label across the gas pump that lets you know if the cabinet panel on the fuel dispenser has been tampered with. When intact, the label has a flat red, blue or black background. However, once the seal has been broken, the words “Void Open” appears in white. If the seal is broken, it’s a sign that someone without authorization has accessed the cabinet. Let the gas station attendant know and do not use the credit card machine at that pump.
A pinpad thicker than normal
Criminals may place a fake keypad on top of the real one to capture your keystrokes. This way they can capture your pin in addition to your credit card details. If the keys seem hard to push, eject your card and use another ATM. Using a bank-operated ATM is less likely to have a skimmer, rather than an ATM at a store or gas station.
How to Protect Yourself Against Card Skimming?
Actually, we should mention that those who use nonbank ATMs are most at risk of card theft. Moreover, you can protect your credit card against phishing attacks which we have talked in another article. Now please consider these precautions to prevent such problems:
Use a contactless payment system
You can use the contactless feature on your debit or credit card If it has one. Also, you can use cardless payment method such as a mobile wallet in your cell phone. This way, you’ll avoid the skimmer.
Don’t use remote ATMs
ATMs that are in low-trafficked and poorly lit areas are especially vulnerable to being tampered with by thieves. Also, the same goes with gas pumps that accept credit cards at stations far from major highways. The rate of attack for ATMs is twice that of those inside a bank.
Look for signs of tampering
Before using an ATM, try wiggling the keypad or card slot. If anything seems loose, don’t use the device. Also look for keypads that have an unusual color. A thief could have placed an overlay on the keypad to record your keystroke. As mentioned earlier, some gas pumps have security tape that forms a seal around the card reader. If the seal is broken, that could be a sign that the reader has been compromised. If you encounter unusual resistance when you try entering your card, don’t proceed with the transaction.
Protect your PIN
When entering your personal identification number, place your hand over the keypad. Along with skimming devices, criminals often install a camera to record your PIN. Some may be located in the security mirror that you’ll often find at bank ATMs.
Check your transactions
Carefully examine your bank account activity online for unauthorized purchases.
How to Report a Credit Card Skimming?
If you think you’ve been a victim of credit card skimming, contact your bank or credit card issuer even if you haven’t spotted any fraudulent charges. The sooner you report your suspicions, the more you shield yourself from unauthorized charges. Provide as much detail about the possible location of the skimmer. For example by mentioning the exact location of the ATM or gas station you visited, you can help the bank prevent future losses.
Moreover, you can alert the Federal Trade Commission. They often work to break up large credit card skimming rings. Your complaint will help catch the thieves.