Skimming is Scamming: how to protect yourself

in General, Your Business, Your Life, Your Money

Most of us use a credit or debit card multiple times a day for business or personal reasons. That makes it vitally important to be aware of what “skimming” is and how you can protect yourself from fraud.

Card skimmers gather data from your card’s magnetic strip when you insert or swipe it at point-of-purchase machines, such as gas pumps, ATMs and retail terminals – the most frequent targets for illegal skimming schemes. Armed with the information they retrieve, thieves can then use your account as their own.

Skimmers can be hard to spot. They’re usually installed on the outside of automatic teller machines and look as though they belong there. More recently, even smaller devices called “shimmers” are being placed inside the card reading slot. To further increase the threat, a small, hard-to-detect camera is often installed in proximity to the keypad to record your PIN as you enter it.

Tips to Avoid Skimming

As these devices become more prevalent, it’s important to exercise caution every time you use a credit or debit card. Here are some tips to protect yourself:

  • Pay with a contactless card: Contactless cards use tokenization – a highly secure encryption method. Payment information is encoded and each transaction creates a unique one-time code, eliminating access to data. How do you know if your card is contactless? It will display a symbol that looks like a wi-fi logo on its side.
  • Use your mobile wallet. Like tap-to-pay, another alternative to swiping your card is paying by a mobile wallet, such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay. This form of payment is secure because your credit card information is also tokenized and rendered useless to potential thieves.
  • Give the terminal a quick once-over: Before using any ATM, visually inspect for any evidence of tampering. If the reader seems loose or crooked, if the graphics aren’t aligned or if part of the machine is a different color, don’t insert or swipe your card. Are there other machines nearby? Compare them for obvious differences in appearance.
  • Non-bank ATMs require extra caution: FICO, a consumer credit risk company, reports that 60% of skimming occurs at privately-owned ATMs. These are typically cash-dispensing machines located in convenience stores, bars, restaurants, grocery stores or check cashing establishments.
  • Check the keypad: If the numbers are hard to press, a false keypad may have been installed on top of the actual one. Should you have any doubt, move on to the next machine.
  • Don’t reveal your PIN: Cover the keypad with your free hand when entering your PIN, so a hidden camera will not be able to detect your number.
  • Not sure about gas pumps? Go inside: If your local gas station hasn’t yet updated their pumps to accept tap-to-pay or mobile wallet and you’re hesitant about whether the machine is safe to use, pay inside. Taking an extra minute to walk to the cash register could save you a lot more time – and money – later on.
  • Use ATMs in public view: Always try to use machines that are located in highly visible areas and have security monitoring – these machines are less likely to be targets for tampering. For additional protection, use an ATM inside a store or bank.
  • Check your account regularly: Anti-fraud technology is advancing, but so are skimming devices. The best thing you can do is regularly monitor your account with your online and mobile banking apps. This way, if anything were to happen, you can catch it immediately and report it.
  • Enroll in fraud alerts: Finally, look into the type(s) of fraud alert system your card provider has in place and take advantage of what’s available. While fraud is not 100% preventable, catching issues immediately will save you a lot of headaches.

Above all, trust your instincts. If you’re in doubt about the safety of an ATM, use a different machine or payment method. And, if you believe you have detected a skimming device, report it to the location manager immediately.

A contactless card is the safest, skim-free way to make purchases for yourself or your business. And First Internet Bank offers “tap-to-pay” credit and debit cards that help protect your accounts.

Apply here – it’s not just safer banking, it’s better banking!