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As technology has adapted and grown over the years, so has fraudulent ways of gathering people’s information. Thieves now have the ability to place a small device or camera onto ATM machines, and most customers have no way of knowing.

A credit card skimmer is a device installed onto card readers that collects the card’s data. With this information, thieves can steal data to make purchases using the card information that was read through the skimmer. These devices can be placed anywhere from a gas pump, ATM, card readers in stores or any other point of sale. Anyone is vulnerable to this scamming method.

While there is no definite way to make sure your credit or debit card’s information is safe at all times, here are the best ways to help protect yourself from falling victim to a credit card skimmer.

Identifying Credit Card Skimmers

By being aware of your surroundings and being aware of what typical card readers look like, it is possible to identify skimming devices. Physically and visually, there can be red flags that you may notice. If you are at a gas station, retail store or an ATM, check for any malfunctions with the alignment of the card reader.

Typically, skimmer devices can be placed on top of the designated card reader. This makes it look different than other gas pump machines or cover up arrows and writing that may be on the original device. Often times, a security sticker is placed on the cabinet panel at gas stations. If this sticker or tape looks tampered with, it is best to avoid the reader due to potential fraudulent tampering.

Another way to detect a skimmer is to wiggle the device itself. If it moves at all, it is likely that it has been illegally installed.

Common Locations to Find Credit Card Skimmers

Credit card skimmers have the ability to be placed and installed on any point-of-sale terminal.

This allows scammers to steal your information off your card when you pay for a transaction.

While this can happen anywhere, gas stations are highly susceptible to credit card skimmers. Little to no surveillance over each point-of-sale device at the pump can allow thieves to set these devices up in plain sight. Many recommend using the pump closest to the building or window. These machines are usually closest to the employees, which can decrease the likelihood of a skimmer being installed.

We all get caught up in the hustle of getting gas and filling up our tanks, which often causes us to overlook the security measures gas stations have put in place. On each pump there is a lockable door, and over the door there is a tamper-resistant seal. If this seal looks broken or damaged in any way, proceed to the next pump and immediately notify the cashier.

You can also discover credit card skimmers by comparing the card readers to the other pumps around you. If the one you are about to use looks bulkier, uneven or tampered with, do not use it.

It is also a smart safety precaution to cover your hands when inputting your PIN number if using a debit card to avoid shoulder surfing. It’s possible you may not be using a credit card skimmer, but they still may have installed a camera to capture important credit card information.

Can a Skimmer Read a Chip Card

Although not as common, being hacked from using your credit card chip is still a possibility. It has been shown that skimmers copy the data from the magnetic strip on your credit card, so it is safer to use your chip due to it being more heavily encrypted. It is best to avoid swiping your card when and if possible.

Another alternative can be to use your mobile wallet. Smartphones have created a way to pay through the click of your phone rather than swiping or inserting your card. Using this method of Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay can allow for a secure form of payment where thieves are unable to steal the card information if a skimmer has been placed on the machine.

How Do I Report a Credit Card Skimmer

If you are fearful your card has been skimmed, report it immediately to the Federal Trade

Commission. This not only helps protect you and helps you from being scammed, but the report also allows the FTC to detect thieves and narrow down the root of the crime. 

What to do if You’re a Victim of Skimming

Stolen personal information and identity theft can be a worrying situation. Thieves can take this information to make their own credit cards, make online purchases or even sell the stolen information. If you notice fraudulent charges on your card, call your bank immediately. Most banks have a zero-fraud liability policy that allows you to be protected from further financial stress or charges.

When contacting the bank for suspicious activity, they can assess the situation, then proceed to refund the charges and send you a new credit card via mail.

Protect Your Identity

Investing in an identity theft protection plan can also minimize the risk of this unfortunate situation. These services can detect suspicious activity promptly and alert you, while keeping your confidential information safe.

Identity theft protection services, such as IdentityIQ, offer a security blanket of fraud protection.

Bottom line, protect yourself and your bank account from credit card skimmers in any way you can. It is best to trust your gut instincts in situations like these. If something doesn’t feel right or look right, avoid it at all costs.