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). I’m a security analyst, so please keep reading to learn more about skimming and what you can do about it.
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, 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 Exxon 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.
- A dime-sized device can attach to a cellphone to download the stolen data, which is then transferred as desired.
- 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.
Finally, routinely check your credit card and bank statements for any unauthorized charges.