Credit Card and Debit Card Skimming Scams

Scammers Can Read Your Card Number and PIN and Take Your Photo

Credit card and debit card skimming scams result from copying the information embedded on the magnetic strip on the back of the card.

Scammers can skim and then clone cards by surreptitiously installing a discreet attachment on an automatic teller machine (ATM), an electronic funds transfer at point of sale (EFTPOS, an ATM alternative widely deployed in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania) or even a gasoline pump.  This device — called a skimmer or a shimmer — reads your card number and PIN. It may also contain a camera. In that case the scammers will then have your photo, which they can then use to commit identity theft.

Once they skim your card, the scammers can create copies of it. They will then charge purchases to your account and withdraw cash from your account.

Consumers cannot readily recognize these skimmers or shimmers. They are just pieces of plastic placed over the normal card slot. But inside them is a chip that does all the work.  Another option that scammers can use is an ultra- thin keypad that sits right on top of the regular one. When you type in your PIN, therefore, both the real and fraudulent receive the data.

When the scammers who place them feel like it they will return to the machines and retrieve their devices, along with the information they have gathered, and replace them with new ones. More advanced skimmers are equipped with wireless capabilities that transmit your credit or debit card information directly to the scammer.  In this way they reduce the need to return to the scene of the crime and the chance of ever being caught.

Hand-Held Skimmers

There are also small hand-held skimmers used, for example, by dishonest waiters in elegant restaurants or attendants at car washes. They hide them in their pockets and use them copy your credit or debit card information en route to the cash register.

The U.S. Secret Service (whose responsibilities include safeguarding the national financial system) claims that ATM skimming now poses the fastest-growing electronic fraud risk for banks. Recognizing the danger, Visa and Mastercard have set a deadline of October 2020 for all U.S. gas stations to upgrade their gasoline pumps with chip card readers. This will cost the industry an estimated $4 billion (at least). But it will add an additional layer of sophisticated protection for cardholders. That’s because these chip-enabled terminals communicate with the microchips embedded in credit and debit cards to process the cardholder’s identity and SIM. Since the codes they generate are unique, they will be virtually impossible to duplicate or copy.

How to Avoid Credit Card and Debit Card Skimming Scams

Experts in information technology security all agree on certain basic steps:

  • As much as it is possible, use an ATM inside a bank or bank lobby. Avoid one on the street. Scammers prefer to avoid tampering with ATMs inside of banks because there is a greater chance they will appear on a surveillance video.
  • Cover the ATM keypad when entering the PIN number in case scammers installed a hidden camera. Certain ATMs feature a cover over the keypad to ensure privacy when entering your code. It’s more secure to choose one of them.
  • In the event the keypad looks wobbly or if it protrudes more than normal, choose another ATM. If the card reader feels like it was attached like a glove onto an existing device, choose another ATM.  Beware of any sticker or note on the ATM that reads “Only Use This Machine” or something similar. That may be a gimmick to direct you to an infected ATM.  In short, when in doubt, always choose another ATM.
  • If a stranger is hanging around the ATM before you type in your PIN, ask him to move. Decline his assistance if he volunteers to help you, especially by keying in your PIN. Consider reporting it to the bank.
  • Never take your eyes off your credit card after you hand it to someone to process a charge.

If you think you’ve been the victim of a credit card or debit card skimming scam, contact the fund recovery experts at MyChargeBack

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