How to Spot and Avoid Credit Card Skimmers

Spot and Avoid Credit Card Skimmers


Do you know how to spot and avoid credit card skimmers? These devices are responsible for a high amount of credit card and debit card fraud and identity theft. When attached to an ATM or any other card swiper device, these skimmers harvest account numbers, PINs, and other data. Many shoppers don’t know their credit card data has been compromised until it’s too late…unless they know how to spot and avoid credit card skimmers.

Popular Targets For Skimmers And Scammers

Gas pump card readers and ATMs are two of the most popular targets for those using credit card skimmers because they sit unattended for long periods overnight and in bad weather. Installing a skimmer is easy when no one is looking.

How pervasive are skimmers at these spots? In 2018, authorities expected to discover about 1,000 skimmer devices at gas stations alone.

Spotting A Skimmer

When approaching an ATM, gas pump payment system, or even a vending machine, examine the unit. Scammers are known to 3-D print legitimate-looking, but not-quite-right, keypads to slip over the original hardware on the ATM. The card skimmer is hidden within.

Does the ATM or card swiper look unusual? Are the keys a bit too large compared to regular payment gateways? If so, pay attention to these warning signs.

If the official inspection seals are broken at the gas pump, avoid them. DO NOT USE. Skimmers may have compromised the pump. In any case, a gas pump with broken inspection seals violates the law in many instances. Federal regulations, state law, and local ordinances have the final say.

Physically Inspect The Credit Card Reader

In the advice above, we mention that card skimmer crooks may use 3-D printing to create a different keypad or other devices that fit over the top of the original equipment.

Physically inspect the ATM, card reader, etc. If there are loose parts, wobbly mounts, or the machine does not behave the way you expect it to, do not use it. Any physical feature of the unit that does not behave as it typically does may be compromised.

Examine The Card Slot

Skimmers may insert their hardware into the same slot your card goes into when conducting a transaction. Look into the card slot. If you see any foreign object, do not use that card reader and call a manager if possible.

Always Remember

Those who deal in credit card skimmers rely on stealth. Evaluate the location of the payment method you are trying to use. Are you swiping at an out-of-the-way location, or is the machine out of public view and easy to overlook?

Treat such conditions the way you would treat a dark alley–do you want to go down it and take a chance? Likely not. The same is true for ATMs, gas pumps, card-friendly vending machines, and other card swipers that aren’t fully in the public view.

Use Contactless Cards

Spot and Avoid Credit Card Skimmers

Technology is constantly evolving; contactless cards are growing in popularity. These are not susceptible to skimmers, so if you can, use contactless cards.

Final Thoughts

You may not be able to avoid being a victim of credit card fraud. However, by learning how to spot and avoid credit card skimmers, you can protect yourself. Even better, use a contactless credit card.

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