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How to spot and avoid credit card skimmers

Ultra thin skimmers

One of the newest types 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.

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.

Next, we'll talk about another smaller version of a skimmer, called a shimmer.

What is a shimmer?

Skimmers are somewhat bulky, making them easy to spot for the well-educated consumer. This has led criminals to turn to the shimmer.

Shimmers are much smaller versions of a skimmer that fit easily inside an ATM or POS card reader. They are embedded with a microchip and flash storage, which allows them to steal your cards' data, including the PIN. This data is extracted at a later time when the thief returns and inserts a specially designed card that downloads the information.

This is what a shimmer looks like:


Image: shimmer found inside retailer's checkout card reader. (Source: RCMP)

The shimmer is super easy for the thief to install and is so thin, you won't be able to tell that it's inside the card reader. It also won't block the normal usage of your card.

Because these new devices are so small, they won't be limited to gas stations and ATMs. You can expect to see them popping up at grocery stores and retail locations, especially ones that offer self-checkout.

Next page: Advanced skimmers and how to defeat them
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