How to Identify and Avoid High-Tech Credit Card Skimming

Beware of credit card skimming at kiosk machines.

Credit card skimming is a process in which you or someone else (namely a server or cashier) scan your credit card in to a device that then steals your number and subsequent information. This action is considered a type of identity theft in which the FTC estimates 9 million people have their identity stolen every year.

Although card skimming is nothing new, there are still technically savvy people, including yours truly, that are easily taken advantage of using this technology. Those who had their credit cards skimmed at an ATM, learned the hard way, that within a matter of hours your entire world could be turned upside down.

Where before a clerk or server might have been able to skim a few cards a day, technology has enabled thieves to target a larger audience by attaching legitimate looking scanner devices to trusted services like ATMs.

These fraudulent devices attach to the real card scanner, enabling your credit card data to be stolen, sometimes they include a microscopic camera for snatching your PIN number. The data is then stored in the device or transmitted wirelessly to a nearby laptop. In the end the machine will still provide you with your cash, but now the thief has all the information necessary to make counterfeit cards or go directly to the Internet to rack up charges, leaving you none the wiser until your next statement.

Here are a few tips about how to identify a credit card skimmer and the best ways to avoid becoming a victim.

1. Watch for unusual plastic additions to the card reader. This is especially important if it is a place that you frequent. The skimmers usually look legitimate, but most of the time something will feel unusual, either the plastic seems cheap or the card doesn’t run through smoothly. If you have any questions or concerns don’t use the machine and contact the company that owns it immediately.

2. Only use ATM machines attached to or inside of banks. All banks have some kind of security that watches for fraud. This is especially important if you are traveling.

3. When using an ATM cover your PIN code with your other hand. Even if the thief makes a copy of your card or uses the Internet they are forced to use credit, which takes several days to clear. If they have your PIN number they can make a counterfeit card and go to several other ATMs, withdrawing the maximum amount at each one.

4. Always keep an eye on your card. If you have to hand your card to someone else, like at a restaurant, keep a close eye on where it goes; or if you really need to, follow the server to the register. This might make the cashier uncomfortable, but it will give you peace of mind.

The best way to watch for credit card skimming is to check your bank and credit card statements frequently. It’s best to catch the problem as soon as possible.

Let's see how the skimmer captures you:

If you happen to become a victim of card skimming, immediately notify your card company, file a police report, contact the three major credit bureaus or the bank.

Others Credit Card Skimming Resources:
See how easy it is for a person to copy the information from your credit Card, make a counterfeit card and obtain credit in your name. Your counterfeited credit card can be used to make purchases within minutes after you lose control of the information.