With Thanksgiving weekend and the December holidays approaching, crime is on the rise everywhere, including the gas pump. “Card skimmers,” or illegal card readers attached to payment terminals, have caught many an unwary traveler during the holiday hustle and bustle. Below are some tips to help you recognize, and avoid, card skimmers.
What are Card Skimmers?
Card skimmers are illegal card readers most often inserted into outdoor gas pumps and ATMs. They are usually placed over top of the real card reader and are therefore very difficult to identify
. When a victim swipes a credit or debit card through the reader, the magnetic stripe grabs the data, which can then be sold on the dark web or used to make purchases. Most card skimming victims do not know their information has been stolen until they receive a bank statement or overdraft notice.
According to a study from ATM Marketplace
, card skimming accounts for 30 percent of all data fraud and results in more than $2 billion in losses annually.
Identifying Card Skimmers
The following tips have been issued by the Federal Trade Commission to help drivers spot electronic card skimmers.
- Wiggle the card reader a little before inserting your card. It should be firmly attached to the machine.
- Look for hidden cameras. At ATMs, skimmers are sometimes used in conjunction with hidden cameras that record you as you enter your PIN, according to the FBI.
- If you suspect that the card reader is not firmly attached, examine other card readers at the station to determine whether they look the same.
- To be on the safe side, choose the “credit” option when using your debit card. That way, you will not have to enter your PIN and the information will remain protected.
- If you are really concerned about card skimmers, pay inside rather than at the pump.
Security at Home and Away
When you are away from the pump, monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized any charges. If your credit card has been compromised, report it to your bank or card issuer as soon as possible. Depending on your bank, your liability may depend on how quickly you report the loss or theft.
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