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How to spot and avoid credit card skimmers

Advanced skimmers

A good example of an advanced skimmer comes from Brazil. It's a type of overlay skimmer, but instead of overlaying the card reader, the entire front of the ATM is fake. Click here to see the unbelievable video.

You also need to be aware of unscrupulous employees of a restaurant or store who might have handheld skimmers that you'll never see. Or they might put out POS terminals that are really skimmers in disguise; they'll even print out a receipt.

Not many crooks have these advanced skimmers yet, but they'll get less expensive and more widespread as time goes by. Fortunately, as we said, banks and retailers are switching over to EMV cards that have a chip instead of a magnetic strip.

Mobile payment options are also becoming more popular. Not sure how mobile payments work? Here's how to pay on the go using your Android or Apple smartphone.

In the meantime, you should try avoiding the places most likely to have skimmers. Here are the three most risky places to swipe your debit card.

Now let's talk about how to defeat skimmers.

Defeating the skimmer:

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.

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