Avoiding Credit Card Skimmers

Your Information Could Be At Risk

One of the most common ways criminals acquire peoples’ credit card and debit card information is through the use of card skimmers. Most often, these information stealing devices are found on ATMs, gas station pumps, and vending machines. Criminals use this card information to create clones of existing cards, or to take money directly from the victim’s bank account. All people who utilize these conveniences are at risk.

Skimmers are card readers that record a card’s data by reading it off the magnetic strip. Criminals try to instal these devices as inconspicuously as possible, so users do not realize their card may have been compromised until it is too late. The device usually fits over the current card reader, so the user’s card must pass through it to utilize the machine. When a skimmer is placed at an ATM, the criminal usually also places a camera to capture the user’s PIN number. Sometimes, instead of a camera, the criminal places a fake PIN pad over the real one to capture the PIN. This is necessary for the criminal because with out the PIN the information from a debit card is useless.

Keeping Your Money Safe

There are some ways that a card user can mitigate their risk of having their credit or debit card information stolen. Knowing some of the warning signs that a device has been tampered with can help keep a user’s information safe.

Always check for tampering before you insert your credit or debit card into any machine. Signs of tampering include different colored material, and graphics that don’t line up correctly. Checking to see if the keypad is unusually thick or just doesn’t feel right, is another way to identify a card skimmer. If there are two ATMs side-by-side, check them for differences.

Another way to reduce the risk of having your card information stolen is to always wiggle your card while inserting it into a machine. Wiggling your card as you insert it into the machine can obscure your information enough to make it useless to criminals without ruining your transaction.

Finally, always remember to try to cover keep your PIN number from from being visible to others by trying to cover it up as you enter it into the machine. This will keep criminals from being able to use the information from your debit card, should they obtain it.

Card skimmers are most often installed on machines that are not very busy, and they usually do it on weekends when it is less likely to be reported. ATMs at banks are less likely to be targeted, and those that are located inside of stores are usually even safer to use.

You should always report any unauthorized charges on your account to your bank as quickly as possible, so they can refund your money.

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