Skimming means more than just cutting fat off steak; it’s also when a thief obtains data from that magnetic strip on the back of your credit card (or debit or ATM card).
The thief records and copies this data with a counterfeit card reader onto a blank card’s strip, and then makes purchases or cash withdrawals with this fraudulent card—in the account holder’s name.
Skimming takes place at ATMs, taxis, gas stations, restaurants, retail stores—any place where an employee will swipe your card to make your purchase. A credit/debit/ATM card reader can be fitted with a skimmer by the thief. Or, the thief can skim your card using a handheld skimming device.
Next time you hand your card to a clerk, watch it very carefully. At one gas station, two attendants skimmed dozens of customers’ cards with a square-shaped device the size of a dime, then sold the stolen information.
There are several ways to skim this cat:
- An employee skims a card, then sells the stolen data, usually online on illegal “carding sites.”
- The skimming or scanning device can be tiny, hidden in the hand.
- Other skimming devices are superimposed on an ATM’s “mouth” to collect information when customers insert their cards. Thieves can then transfer the data via Bluetooth.
- Sometimes a scanning-overlay is placed on the keyboard to capture PINs.
- A less sophisticated approach is to record via tiny camera the customer entering the PIN.
- Thieves with only half a brain know to wear concealing attire when they collect these devices. They do it quickly since they know that banks can catch on quickly.
- These devices are also placed inside gas station pumps.
- Some of these crimes are perpetrated by organized groups, and the gas station ones usually come from Europe.
Make It harder for Thieves
Always use the same ATMs so that you might detect a subtle difference one day.
Use indoor ATMs.
Keep your eyes on your card after giving it to an employee, though this isn’t always possible when the employee disappears into an employee-only area.
Cover the PIN pad with your other hand when entering your PIN.
Finally, routinely check your credit card and bank statements for any unauthorized charges.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to AllClearID. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.