Credit card skimmers are frightening. Scammers use them at ATMs, gas stations and even some retail locations to steal your credit or debit card information to rip you off.
When criminals began using skimmers, they were typically devices that fit over the card reader slot of an ATM or gas pump. Scammers have since come up with more devious skimmers, making them virtually undetectable.
The newest type of skimmers is thin enough to fit right inside the retail location's card reader slot. These devices can easily be purchased by anyone on the Dark Web.
Watch how skimmers work
To better understand how these skimmers work, watch these two videos. These are promotional sales videos that show the inner workings of skimmers that are for sale on the Dark Web.
In the first video, you will see a demonstration of how a debit card easily fits inside the card reader while the skimmer is inside. At the end of the video, you see how the criminal extracts the skimmer.
In this next video, the criminal shows how to install and remove a skimmer from a card reader that has been taken from an ATM.
Defeating the skimmer
For criminals to be successful using skimmers, they need two things. First, the skimmer steals the information from your card's magnetic strip. Then, they need to get your PIN, which is usually captured by a hidden camera planted near the PIN pad.
Once the scammer has this information they can create a new card and steal money from your account. Here are some simple ideas to defeat skimmers:
- Shield your PIN - The easiest step you can take to avoid having your PIN stolen is to block your hand typing in the PIN with your other hand. Always assume someone is watching you enter your PIN.
- Check for tampering - Before putting your card into a reader check it for tampering. Look for anything different or misaligned. If it looks suspicious, do NOT use the machine.
- Wiggle everything - ATMs don't have loose parts. If anything jiggles, don't use it.
- Avoid stand-alone ATMs - Try to use ATMs that are located at a bank, preferably inside the lobby area.
- Frequently check bank statements - Criminals are becoming more sophisticated, which means you need to stay vigilant. Stay on top of your bank statements and report any suspicious activity ASAP.
- Report the theft - If you are a victim of a skimmer, report it immediately to your financial institution.