Card skimming is a very real threat to Americans’ finances. Skimming works by replacing a card reader like an ATM or gas pump terminal with a camouflaged counterfeit card reader.
The counterfeit reader records all the data on the magnetic strip of a credit or debit card as it passes through the skimmer. This information, copied onto another blank card’s magnetic stripe, is then used by an identity thief to make purchases or withdraw cash in the name of the actual account holder. Here are a few simple tips to keep your card secure.
1. Go inside to pay if you can.
Skimmers are typically installed at unmanned, outside terminals.
2. Make sure the point-of-sale terminal is in a well-lit area with high traffic.
Thieves need to access the terminal inconspicuously to install a skimmer. A busy, well-lit terminal is less likely to be compromised.
3. Jiggle the card reader.
Skimming devices are designed to be removable, real card readers are not. Jiggle the card reader. If it moves, don’t use the machine.
4. Check for security stickers.
Some gas stations have security stickers on their pumps. If the seal has been tampered with, the words “Security Seal” will be faded and you’ll see the word VOID on part of the red tape.
5. Cover your hand when you type your PIN.
Thieves sometimes use a concealed camera to capture PIN numbers. Cover your hand as you type your PIN to block the view of any hidden cameras.
6. At gas stations, use a credit card with a chip.
Debit cards compromised by skimming may give thieves the ability to withdraw cash from your bank accounts. With credit cards, your exposure is limited to your credit card limit, and these funds are often easier to recover from institutions.
7. Keep an eye on your account transactions.
Reporting fraud promptly is very important. Many card companies offer text or email alerts for transaction thresholds so you can monitor your transactions as they happen.