How to Spot and Avoid Credit Card Skimmers

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 they have been the victims of a card skimmer until its’ too late…unless they know what to look for.

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. These are both ideal places for the criminal to install a skimmer–ATMs and gas pumps sit unattended for long periods of time overnight and in bad weather and it’s easy to install a skimmer when nobody’s looking.

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

Spotting A Skimmer

The first thing to do 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 and other items they slip over the original hardware on the ATM.

The card skimmer is concealed within. Does the ATM or card swiper look unusual? Are the keys a bit too large compared to “regular” payment gateways? This is a warning sign to pay attention to.

At the gas pump, if the official inspection seals are broken, avoid them. DO NOT USE. Skimmers may have compromised the pump and in any case a gas pump with broken inspection seals is in violation of 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 fits over the top of the original equipment.

Physically inspect the ATM, card reader, etc. If there are loose parts, wobbly or substandard 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 should may have been compromised.

Examine The Card Slot

Skimmers may insert their hardware into the same slot your card goes into when conducting a normal 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 the dark alley 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.

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