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ATM Skimmers

September 25, 2018

In order to steal your debit/credit card information, thieves install electronic devices (“skimmers”) over the normal card reading slot of an ATM/point-of-sale (POS) machine. The skimmers record data from the magnetic strip on the back of the card which can then be used to manufacture counterfeit cards, make purchases, or withdraw funds from your account.

Skimming devices can be hard to spot, but there are almost always tell-tale signs, including:

  • A card reader that feels loose or fits poorly.
  • Scratches or traces of glue around the card reader.
  • It’s hard to fit your card in the slot.
  • Either the slot or keypad appears strange. (This is easiest to notice at a machine you use often.)
  • There are loose or extra parts on the machine.

Experts suggest a “yank and twist” before you use a reader, which means yanking and twisting on the reader before inserting your card. You’ll not be able to damage a legitimate machine, so if something is loose, don’t use that reader.

Tips for Using Payment Cards

In addition to paying attention to the machine you’re using, there are some other tips you can take to protect your account information:

  • Avoid machines in remote locations, especially if they aren’t well lit or visible to security cameras.
  • Choose gas pumps closest to the physical building. Or, better yet, pay inside with cash, a credit card, or your digital wallet.
  • Shield the keypad when entering your PIN. Doing so won’t protect you from a skimmer, but I can protect your PIN from a hidden camera.
  • If you use a smartphone, investigate “ATM Skimmer Detector” apps on Google Play or iTunes.
  • Active fraud alerts on your debit/credit cards.
  • Carefully review your bank/credit card statements for unauthorized transactions.
Point of Sale Skimmer

Skimmer on a common point-of-sale reader.

Gas Pump Skimmer

Skimmer on a gas pump.

The views, information, or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Citizens State Bank and its affiliates, and Citizens State Bank is not responsible for and does not verify the accuracy of any information contained in this article or items hyperlinked within. This is for informational purposes and is no way intended to provide legal advice.