How to keep your Credit Cards safe from Skimmers

You think you’re safe when you walk up to your large bank branch and slide your debit card into the ATM machine.  You are confident that everything is legit and secure when you pull up to refuel your tank and feed your credit card to the pump machine.  Your confidence is about to be shattered by something called “Skimming”.

Skimming is a form of high tech fraud that has been increasing in frequency as of late.  It uses tiny electronics to copy data from your credit or debit card.  The electronic device is small and fits directly over the card insertion location so as to camouflage itself as part of the machine.  It used to be that these “skimmers” could only capture your card number and not your PIN, those days are no more.  Hackers have figured out a way to crack the algorithms either with complicated software programs or with a tiny fish eye camera and mirror attached to the device which records and uploads compressed video of you entering your PIN for the hackers to see.

Skimmers have been found at gas stations, restaurants, ATMs, banks, and many other locations throughout the USA in recent years and their frequency is on the rise. Thieves covet the debit cards more than the credit cards because they can clean out your entire bank account so easily with this method.  There is a limit on how much can be transferred out of a personal account in 1 day, but they have managed to alter this.  In just 12 hours in November 2008, thieves were able to plunder over $9.4 million from ATMs in 230 cities worldwide as someone on the inside altered the daily transfer limit to amounts exceeding half a million dollars.

Protect yourself by running your fingernails along the insertion point on ATMs or gas pump machines to make sure a skimmer is not installed over the standard reader.  If you do find one you should report it to the authorities.  Although before you do would greatly appreciate a few photos of the device if not the device itself.  It would be quite interesting to dissect the technology and see if we can track the thieves ourselves and perhaps beat them at their own game.  I think I know just the friends for the job…  ever seen the movie SNEAKERS?  😉

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About Jonathan G. Nelson

Jonathan G. Nelson is the editor-in-chief and owner of NERD TREK. He is also owner/publisher at AAW Games /, a tabletop gaming company based in Snoqualmie, WA. Connect with Jonathan via Facebook.