Skimmers are essentially malicious card readers attached to ATM machines or payment terminals (gas pumps, business checkouts, self checkouts) so that data can be harvested from any card swiped on that machine.
The thief has to come back to the compromised machine and manually pick up the file containing all of the stolen data, or with some skimmers, download it using a Bluetooth connection. With that information in hand he/she can create cloned cards or access bank accounts to steal money.
Skimmers often do not prevent the ATM or credit card reader from functioning properly, making them hard to detect. Skimmers can be a small device that fits over an existing card reader or a device that is attached to the internal components of a machine which cannot be seen.
How can I lower my chances of becoming a victim?
- Look at the machine, if it appears to be tampered with, do not use it
- Physically check the card reader, if it pulls out or wiggles, do not use it
- If the card reader doesn’t match others on different machines at the same location, don’t use it
- Check the security seal tape on the machine to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with
- Pay inside, with cash or a credit card, rather than at the pump
- Consider paying with your digital wallet or a mobile app
- Some gas stations offer a gas discount card that can be used at the pump instead of a credit or debit card
- Choose machines closest to a physical building
- Use machines in busy areas, they are generally safer to use because it is harder (though not impossible) to install a skimmer with several people around
- If you see something suspicious report it to an employee
- Don’t assume that you cannot become a victim of this crime
- Check your credit card and bank accounts often and look for fraudulent charges
- If you have become the victim of this crime, report it to your financial institution and the police