Credit card skimming at gas stations, movie theater vending kiosks, and ATM’s have become more prevalent. Thieves have the ability to place skimmers inside the card reader sleeves of machines with small cameras to read the cards and pin numbers of unsuspecting consumers. There have been cases where people dress up as gas pump service men and unlock the front pumps with special keys to place skimming devices to read customer cards. The data from the magnetic stripe is read each time the customer swipes saving the data automatically. The card is then cloned and used on a later date. The skimming devices have become sophisticated where the devices are now smaller with more power, communication, memory, and encryption. The good ones look razor-thin that is nearly impossible to detect. Always be cautious with any card slots that have existing tape residue, unusual attachments, or odd markings.
To avoid becoming a victim of credit card skimmers make sure the gas pump dispenser cabinet is closed at all times and avoid using debit cards. Use cash or credit cards instead because of better fraud protection and the ability to dispute transactions at the end of the month. Make sure the door in front of the pump is closed and avoid pumps farthest away from gas stations because skimmers are typically placed there. If you do use a debit card swipe it as a credit. When people go to ATM’s to make withdrawals pay attention to your surroundings. If the keyboard looks too thick there might be a fake keyboard placed on top of the real one that has the ability to record every button pressed. Always shield your pin number with your hands. This will not help if there is a keypad overlay, but will block the views of any hidden pinhole cameras. If you tug on anything that seems out of place and it moves or comes off it is best to use another machine because of the chance a skimming device has been placed. Card swipe skimmers are typically placed in places without much traffic because thieves want to avoid detection. Machines placed inside grocery stores, banks, and high traffic areas are considered safer but not full proof.
If you do fall victim to card skimmers while using your credit card you are not liable for any fraudulent transactions. Most card companies have a 60 day policy to report anything fraudulent and its best to check your statements regularly. The sophisticated criminals that have credit card information only use it once in a while to avoid being detected so it’s important to look at every single transaction. About one third of Americans have fallen victim to fraudulent activity at least once in their lives. The chances of getting hurt by a card skimmer are higher during the weekends because it’s more difficult for customers to report suspicious activity. Sometimes card skimmers are placed only during the weekends and then quickly removed by Monday morning. U.S. card holders are preferred for thieves because our cards are easier to skim and clone. In Europe their credit cards contain global chips that involves more work and is more difficult to make duplicates.