Credit/Debit Card Identity Theft

Beware the Skimmer/Shimmer Scam at ATMs, Gas Stations, and Grocery Stores

You’re at the gas station filling up in anticipation of a much-needed vacation. When you get to your destination, your bank notifies you that your credit card shows suspicious charges. There’s a possibility that an identity thief placed a skimmer on the gas station terminal, and stole your credit card information.

What’s a Skimmer?

Skimmers are devices identity thieves attach to payment terminals that capture credit card or debit card information to steal money, break into bank accounts, or create cloned cards. They return to retrieve the malicious card readers, and with it all the stolen data.

How can you spot a skimmer? On an ATM, look closely at the slot where you insert your card. Are the arrows too close to the slot? Is the plastic casing color mismatched? These could be tell-tale signs that an identity thief has placed a skimmer over the slot to steal card information.

At the gas station, avoid using your debit card which requires your PIN number. This helps you avoid inputting your PIN number if there is a skimmer camera. Using a credit card only requires use of your Zip code as verification, which is much safer than using your PIN.

What’s a Shimmer?

Most credit cards now use chip cards, which have been a major security feature for consumers. However, it hasn’t taken long for thieves to come up with methods to compromise chip cards. The thieves have developed shimmers, very thin devices that can’t be detected from the outside as easily as the skimmers. These devices are much more difficult to spot, but ATM manufacturers are working on anti-tampering solutions including radar systems to detect inserted or attached objects.

What Can You Do To Detect These Devices?

·      Check For Signs Of Tampering: If something looks strange, either different colored insert slots, card reader graphics that don’t line up at the grocery checkout line, or readers that don’t match at the gas pump—don’t insert your card.
·      Use The “Wiggle Test”: ATMs are usually solidly constructed and shouldn’t have any loose parts. Check if the keyboard is securely attached and doesn’t move when you push at it.
·      Use Your Phone: Apps can now alert you to possible skimmers. Check out the free Skimmer Scanner Android app that scans for Bluetooth technology that thieves use to retrieve credit or debit card information.
·      When In Doubt, Avoid Using Unattended Terminals: Go inside the gas station and pay the attendant. It’s less likely that the terminal inside was tampered with.
·      Avoid Weekends: Since it may be more difficult for customers to report suspicious ATMs to banks on the weekends, criminals could install skimmers on Saturdays or Sundays and remove them before the banks reopen on Monday.

The best deterrence is avoidance. If the ATM, gas station terminal, or grocery store checkout doesn’t look right, don’t use it, and contact management.