Protect Yourself Against Card Skimmers
"Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster." - Sun Tzu ” How can thiefs get your card information, when you never let your card out of your sight? Sometimes, when you make a purchase with your card, the actual device that you swipe your card has been manipulated to gather your information. A card skimmer is a portable device that is attached in front of or on top of the legitimate scanner. The skimmer passively records the card data as you insert your credit card into the real scanner. It allows the current transaction to occur while simultaneously storing your information for later collection with the skimmer.
Credit card thieves will often attach the card skimmer device to gas pumps, ATMs, or other convenient self-service point-of-sale terminals. These terminals are perfect targets because they receive a lot of use and the thieves are able to retrieve their skimming devices relatively easily. Skimmers are not just devices for reading the magnetic strip on the card, but may include even a secondary keypad that is placed over the actual keypad to read your PIN number as well.
Here are FIVE things you can do to avoid having your card skimmed at the ATM or gas pump:
1. Inspect the reader and keypad before inserting your card
Most ATMs and gas pumps will have inspection stickers as well as a security tape covering any locking panel for the machine. These are visible cues that indicate the machine has been inspected and unopened since the inspection. Many ATMs will also include a picture of their keypad and magnetic scanner indicating how to operate the machine. If the scanning device does not look like it should, or the seal is broken, then the machine may have been compromised.
2. Compare to the other pumps or ATMs card readers
Most crooks are only able to put one skimmer on one device or affect one pump. If the setup of the scanner on your pump is different than all the others at the same gas station, you may have spotted a skimmer.
3.Trust your instincts
Our brains are programmed to give us little warnings when something is out of place. So, even if the machine was just used, or nothing appears abnormal, yet you have a bad feeling about using the machine, you might be better off using a different machine.
4. Do not use your PIN at the pump
When you use a card to pay at the pump, you usually have two options for payment: credit (signature) or debit (PIN). The more often you use your PIN number, the more likely it is to be compromised. PIN numbers are required when withdrawing cash, so it makes sense that you would need to use it at the ATM. However, you probably are not getting any cash back from a gas pump, so select the “credit” option when paying, the machine will usually have you enter your billing ZIP code, and this tends to be much safer than using your PIN.
5. Watch your accounts
With the ease of access to your accounts using online banking from a PC and mobile banking from your phone, you can check your accounts any time of day or night and find out what has cleared and what is pending. If there are ever unrecognized transactions, report those immediately.