Card skimming is where criminals use a small device (called a skimmer) to steal payment card information in an otherwise legitimate credit or debit card transaction. When a payment card is swiped through a skimmer, the device captures and stores all the details stored in the card’s magnetic stripe which contains the card number, expiration date and the card holder’s full name. Thieves use the stolen data to make purchases online or make counterfeit cards or sell to other criminals.
Card skimmers can be placed over almost any type of card reader but are most often placed over the card entry mechanism on ATMs and petrol stations. The criminals may also place a tiny camera above the keypad to record you entering your PIN. This gives the thief all the information needed to make fake cards and withdraw money from your account.
Sometimes retail and restaurant workers who handle payment cards are recruited to be part of a skimming ring. These workers use a handheld device to skim your card during a normal transaction. For example when you hand your card over to the waiter to pay your bill – the waiter disappears and returns with your receipt but has also passed your card through a skimmer.
Once the victim’s card information is stolen, thieves will either create cloned card to make purchases in store or online or sell the information or fake cards on the dark web. Victims of credit card skimming are often unaware of the theft until they notice unauthorized charges on their account, have their card unexpectedly declined, or receive an overdraft notification from the bank or warnings about a loan in their name that they didn’t take out.
How to Spot a Card Skimmer at an ATM
Card skimming devices are made to look as if part of the ATM it’s placed on.
Look out for :-
- A card reader that sticks out far past the panel. Skimmers are designed to fit over the existing credit card reader.
- A keypad that’s thicker than normal (there may be a fake one on top of the original)
- If the keys seem hard to push, eject your card and use another ATM.
Watch where you shop and keep hold of your cards at all times. Do not let waiters or retail staff wander off with your card to process your payment.
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