Outsmart the Scammers: Card Skimming

With the evolution of technology, fraudsters are getting trickier on ways they look to obtain people’s information. One growing trend we’re seeing is the placement of a Card Skimmer onto an ATM or debit/credit card reader to extract your card number, expiration date, and full name from your card’s magnetic strip in order replicate your card to use on other purchases. But here’s the silver lining to this disturbing fact, staying alert and informed can help you avoid falling victim to these card scams. Learn what Card Skimmers are and how to spot them with this helpful article.

What are Card Skimmers?

Card skimmers are disguised card readers that are attached to the real terminals and extract private data from each card that is swiped without being noticed by the customer or affecting the customer’s transaction. When a credit or debit card is swiped through a skimmer, the device captures and stores all the data in the card’s magnetic strip such as credit card number, expiration date, and the card holder’s full name. Along with the Card Skimmer, scammers will also place a small, hidden camera nearby to capture your PIN. Some criminals may install a fake keypad over the actual keypad to capture the PIN directly, bypassing the need for a camera. Card skimmers can be attached to any card reader but are most often located on ATMs and gas pumps since they are left unattended overnight. The thief will attach the Card Skimmer overnight when no one is around and then return later to extract the data. Some Card Skimmers even transmit the data via Bluetooth without requiring the thief to return to extract the data manually.

What can the scammer do with the data?

Once the scammers have returned to the Card Skimmer and/or extracted the stored data, they can take the card number, expiration date, and cardholder’s name to either create clone cards or purchase items online with your money. If they are also using a hidden camera, they will have your card information and PIN, which will allow them to use your debit card at any store or ATM.

What Should You look for?

The difficult part of noticing Card Skimmers is to the untrained eye, the ATM or point-of-sale card reader, may not look any different from the norm. It will still have all the same parts as usual, but they may be sticking out too far, be loose or jiggle, or be the wrong color.

Before using an ATM, check for signs of tampering at the top of the ATM, the side of the screen, the card reader, and the keypad. If something looks odd, such as a different color or material or stickers that aren’t aligned correctly don’t use that ATM. The same is true for point-of-sale card readers at the checkout line.

Look for this:

1. A card reader that sticks out too far. Skimmers are designed to fit over the existing card reader. If you notice a card reader that protrudes out more than normal or beyond the face of the machine, it may be a skimmer.

card skimmer atm

2. A security seal that has been voided. Per Latoya Irby of The Balance, “Gas stations often place a security label across the gas pump that lets you know if the cabinet panel on the fuel dispenser has been tampered with. When in tact, the label has a flat red, blue or black background. However, once the seal has been broken, the words “Void Open” appears in white. If the seal is broken, it’s a sign that someone without authorization has accessed the cabinet. Let the gas station attendant know and do not use the credit card machine at that pump.”

card skimmer atm

3. A keypad that’s thicker than normal. In addition to a skimming device, thieves may place a fake keypad on top of the real one to capture your PIN. If the keys seem hard to push, you probably don’t want to risk it.

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4. Different color pieces of the same ATM or card reader. Mismatching colors can be a giveaway of external tampering. card skimmer atm

5. ATM pieces not fitting together correctly. In the image below, the gray arrows are very close to the yellow card reader. This is because the yellow card reader is the Card Skimmer and has been placed over top the actual card reader.

card skimmer atm

From the FBI:

card skimmer atm fbi

How to Protect Yourself:

  1. Jiggle every part of the ATM. ATMs are built sturdy, but Card Skimmers are attached externally. If you jiggle different parts of the ATM and they feel loose, it may be a Card Skimmer. Avoid using that ATM.
  2. Protect your PIN. Whenever you enter your debit card’s PIN, assume there is someone looking. Scammers can collect your PIN from watching over your shoulder or through a hidden camera. To protect your PIN, cover the keypad with your hand when you enter it.
  3. Consider mobile wallet payments when possible. Per Max Eddy of PC Magazine, “If the credit card terminal accepts NFC transactions, consider using Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Pay. These services tokenize your credit card information, so your personal information is never exposed. If a criminal somehow intercepts the information, he’ll only get a useless virtual credit card number.”
  4. Avoid Using Your PIN at the Gas Pump. When you pay at the pump with your debit/credit card, you usually have the option to use it as a credit or a debit card. It’s best to choose the credit option that allows you to avoid entering your PIN in sight of a Card Skimmer camera. Bonus: use your Advia Visa Platinum Credit Card for additional fraud protection and rewards!
  5. Use a debit or credit card with EMV Chip Technology. While EMV Chip cards can still have the data stolen from a Card Skimmer, the data cannot be used to create a cloned card because additional security components are not found on the magnetic strip alone.
  6. Look for newer ATMs. New ATMs include anti-tampering devices, sometimes including radar systems intended to detect objects inserted or attached to the ATM.

How does Advia protect you from fraud?

We take member financial safekeeping and identity protection seriously. When a member visits or calls, we will take steps to confirm their identity before providing financial assistance. Our digital banking solutions provide state of art layers of account security, including secure access code protection and other strong password requirements. Our team members inspect our ATMs every day during business hours for tampering or malfunction. Finally, our Fraud Monitoring Team works 24 hours a day to protect financial security when making purchases with one’s Advia Debit or Credit Card. Advia’s fraud monitoring team will contact a member immediately if suspicious card activity is recognized, so updated contact information such as phone, email, and address is key. This can be updated 24 hours a day within our digital banking.

Furthermore, if you feel that you’ve been a victim of fraud, please contact us immediately. We will advise you to close your compromised account(s) to stop any further fraudulent transactions. We will then discuss with you how the possible fraud occurred and review your transaction history to see which transactions are legitimate. From there, a Risk Management Specialist will assist with figuring out the fraudulent activity and we may suggest you file a police report.

By staying vigilant and informed you can work to keep your accounts safe from fraud!

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