Skimming is a method by which thieves steal your debit or credit card information, and all it requires is a little illicit technology and a lot of criminal intent. Skimming occurs most frequently at retail outlets, ATMs, gas stations, and restaurants.
What Are Skimmers?
A skimmer is a small, malicious device that fits over an existing card reader and grabs data off of cards’ magnetic stripes when they are inserted or swiped. The skimmer records the stolen data, which crooks can use to counterfeit the card and take money out of the account.
How to Avoid Skimming
If you’re careful, you can keep from being victimized by these insidious devices. Here’s what to do:
Check for Tampering
When you approach a debit card reader, check for obvious signs of tampering near the card reader. If the color or material of the reader looks different, or if anything else doesn’t look quite right, don’t use that card reader. If the keyboard doesn’t feel right–too thick, perhaps–there may be a PIN-snatching overlay, so don’t use it.
Don’t see any visual differences? Pull and push on everything. Card readers don’t typically have jiggling or loose parts. See if the keyboard is securely attached and just one piece. Does anything move when you wiggle it?
Think Through Your Steps
Whenever possible, insert your EMV card instead of swiping your magnetic stripe. When you use your EMV chip, the card is authorized on the device and personal information is never transmitted.
If the card terminal accepts NFC technology, consider using Apple Pay. This service tokenizes your card information so your personal details are never exposed.
Even if you never see a skimming device, as long as you report the theft to your bank as soon as possible, you will not be held liable for the lost amount and your money will be returned. Timely reporting is very important in cases of fraud. Card monitoring apps, such as CardValet help you manage your debit card usage by defining when, where, and how your card is used. CardValet is available through many financial institutions.