Become an educated consumer to help protect yourself from ill-intentioned people who may try to skim your debit or credit card.
What is a Card Skimmer?
A card skimmer is an electronic method of capturing a victim's personal information to be used by thieves. The skimmer is a small device that scans a credit or debit card and stores the information contained in the card’s magnetic strip.
Skimmers are often installed where you normally swipe your card – on ATMs, gas pumps and payment machines at merchants. They are difficult to see and could be just a piece of plastic over the normal card slot, but with a tiny computer inside.
Skimmers can quickly read everything they need when you use your card, and they store that information for thieves to use later. Some skimmers send the information wirelessly, which reduces risk for thieves.
In many cases, skimmers do not interfere with your transaction, so you don’t know your card number has been stolen. Your card passes right through the skimmer, and everything seems normal.
Skimmers can also be “mobile” devices, tucked away in a pocket. For example, when you hand your card to a dishonest waiter to pay for dinner, it only takes a second to run your card through a skimmer while walking back to the cash register.
In addition to the card reader, skimming scams often use hidden cameras and other equipment to capture your personal identification number (PIN). Popular camera locations include: in the card reader, mounted at the top of the ATM or in plastic cases holding brochures.
Another technique is to alter the keypad (possibly by placing a fake keypad over the original one) with a device that records your PIN. Heat-sensitive cameras on mobile devices can also help with figuring out your PIN.
How to Avoid Skimming Scams
- Know your location: It’s best to swipe your card in secure areas, and avoid insecure areas.
- Protect your PIN: When you enter your PIN, no matter where you are, cover your hand (with your other hand). This makes it harder for cameras to record your PIN and prevents anybody from watching what you enter.
- Check for Tampering: If something looks odd, such as a different color or material, graphics that aren’t aligned correctly, or anything else that does not look right, walk away and use a different machine. Skimmers sometimes stick out an extra half-inch, but many of them are extremely well-designed and difficult to spot.
- Don’t accept “help”: If you get offers to help from strangers hanging around the machine, decline the offer and leave. They may say they were having trouble also, and you just need to enter your PIN again.
We regularly monitor for unusual activity on your account and will contact you if we detect suspicious charges. If you suspect your card has been skimmed or see unauthorized charges on it, please contact us at (866) 952-9523.
By learning tactics thieves can use to skim cards, you can become more alert and help protect yourself and your cards.