The next time you swipe your credit card at your favorite store, take a close look at the card scanner. A recent surge in credit card skimmers has us pretty concerned.
It's not just tiny mom-and-pop shops that are being targeted. Just last month, card skimmers were found on the self-checkout machines in Walmart stores in Virginia. These skimmers were used to collect credit card information from customers, which were then used by the thieves to create duplicate cards.
What's worse, many skimmers these days also contain a micro camera that is able to capture the card user's personal pin number. And skimmers aren't even all that difficult to install. Just watch this footage captured by a surveillance camera where a thief installs a skimmer right in front of the shopkeeper and a customer.
Gas stations and ATM machines have been the target of card skimmers for years, but scammers are now becoming more bold by targeting larger retailers. Although larger retailers like Walmart are tightly guarded by security personnel, and monitored through security cameras, thieves have still been able to attach skimmers at the checkout lines.
So, how can you protect yourself?
EMV cards: Whenever possible, use the EMV chip that comes on most new cards. EMV chips don't store your information. Instead, the computer chip creates a unique transaction ID each time you use it. It uses encryption to securely hide your personal information, so even if hackers get the ID, it's worthless to them. Click here to learn more about what makes EMV cards different.
Get new cards: If you do not currently have a card with an EMV chip, we recommend that you contact your bank and have them send you a new one. Most banks are updating their cards to EMV chip cards as a deterrent of fraud.
Use Apple Pay or Android Pay: Before you swipe, ask the clerk at the register if they accept transactions through Apple Pay or Android Pay. These payment options don't store your card information, or even your name. Apple Pay, for example, assigns every card a Device Account Number or DAN.
Use cash: It may sound old fashioned, but if you really want to avoid card skimmers altogether, it might be best to go back to cash transactions. With cash, you don't run the risk of having your information stolen.