Across the U.S., consumers are finding fraudulent charges on their bank or credit accounts or money withdrawn from accounts despite their debit and credit card never leaving their possession.
It’s scary stuff.
The transactions are part of a credit card skimming wave in which fraudsters attach false fronts to outdoor and standalone ATMs and self-service sale terminals such as gas pumps to gather details off the cards’ magnetic stripes. The information includes credit card numbers, expiration dates and the credit card holders’ full names, which could lead to thieves compromising your accounts.
The devices, called skimmers, are often paired with nearby hidden cameras to record personal identification numbers (PINs). Some criminals even install fake PIN pads over the actual keyboards to directly capture the PINs.
Thieves then retrieve the information and either sell it or use it themselves.
Sometimes retail and restaurant workers who handle credit cards are recruited to be part of a skimming ring and use a handheld device to skim credit cards during normal transactions.
And now a newer type of device is being used. Known as a shimmer, this one is actually installed inside the card readers to read chips on credit cards.
Victims of credit card skimming are often unaware of the theft until they notice unauthorized charges on their account, have their card unexpectedly declined, or receive an overdraft notification in the mail.
Credit card skimming incidents can be difficult to detect, but here are steps you can take to avoid being a victim and mitigating losses if you’ve already had your account compromised.
1. Always Look Before You Insert Your Card
Take a good look at the keyboard and card reader. Does the keyboard look different from the rest of the ATM, or do the keys could look bigger?
At the fuel pump, is the seal broken or has the dispenser door been forced open? Fraudsters must open the fuel dispenser door to insert the skimmer inside a fuel pump.
Look inside the throat of the card reader to see if you can spot anything hidden there.
If a credit card reader protrudes outside the face of the rest of the machine, it might be a skimmer.
2. Feel it Out
Are parts of the credit card reader loose or do they move when jiggled? Moving parts are a sign the reader has been tampered with or that a skimming device has been affixed to the existing reader.
If the keys seem hard to push, cancel the transaction. Use a bank-operated ATM, which is less likely to have a skimmer, rather than an ATM located in a store or gas station. Banks routinely check their ATM machines for any type of device attached.
Also be wary if it’s hard to insert your credit card or debit card.
Catching fraudulent charges related to a skimming incident requires you to watch your accounts frequently. Regularly monitor your checking and credit card accounts online and immediately report any suspicious activity to your bank or credit card issuer.
The sooner you report your suspicions, the more you shield yourself from liability of unauthorized charges. Providing as much detail about the possible location of the skimmer, such as the location of the ATM or gas station you visited, can help the bank prevent future losses.
Alert the Federal Trade Commission, which often works to break up large credit card skimming rings. Your complaint can help catch the thieves.
Set up fraud alerts on your credit and debit cards. Issuers offer these, and many will email and/or text you when your card is used at a gas station.
It’s always a best practice to not use your debit card for online purchases.
ValueBank Texas provides many banking and credit products, each suited to our individual customers. The ValueBank Texas credit and debit cards provide flexibility, convenience, and security wherever you shop, eat or travel. You can also manage your debit card through the ValueBank Texas mobile app. You can block transactions, report a lost or stolen debit card, and set card limits. Plus, you will always have the security and support of ValueBank Texas at hand. For more information, find the nearest branch location to you at ValueBankTexas.com or call (361) 888-4451 today.