SUMMARY: Learn how to spot and protect yourself from card skimmers.
The ability to use an ATM or debit card is an incredible convenience. With a couple of quick motions or taps on a keyboard, we have cash in hand or purchases made in seconds. But thieves are taking advantage of our love affair with this technology by adding technology of their own: card skimmers. These sneaky devices can be illegally installed on fuel pumps and other point-of-sale (POS) card readers to "skim" or capture your card's PIN and data.
There are several types of card skimmers. The kind you may already know about are devices that install directly over the card reading device itself. Other card skimming devices include keypads installed over the POS terminal's keypad. Sometimes a hidden camera is installed on or around the card reader to capture PINs as they are typed.
Because so many people have fallen victim to card skimmers, we want to help you not become one of them. Learning what to watch for and tips for using your card can help you protect yourself.
Here are some tips to stay safe:
- If the card reader or keypad looks loose or crooked, sticks out too far or doesn't match, it could be a card skimmer. Avoid using card readers that have exposed wires or extra parts. Gently tug at the keypad and the card reader to see if they seem like separate devices.
- Watch for pinholes that could serve as a viewpoint for a hidden camera and cover the keypad with your other hand as you type your PIN.
- Use fuel pumps and other POS terminals that are well lit and close to areas where employees are stationed, as those devices are less likely to have the illegal technology installed.
- Be wary of signs that point you toward a specific terminal when others are available. Criminals may have posted these signs to encourage traffic at the card skimmer.
- Use extra caution in tourist areas, special event venues and other busy public spaces.
- Only use cards with chip technology for greater security.
- Report any suspicious-looking device or transaction experience to the owner of the terminal and your credit union.
Just like using your card, these safety precautions take seconds and can spare you from becoming a victim of card fraud.