Credit card skimming is a type of theft where a small device is used to steal credit card information during an otherwise legitimate credit or debit card transaction. The skimming device is placed over the card swipe mechanism which captures and stores all the credit card information The thieves then use the stolen data to make fraudulent charges online or with a counterfeit credit card. Victims of credit card skimming are often unaware of the theft until they receive a billing statement or overdraft notices in the mail.
By knowing the facts on skimming, you can help prevent being a victim. Skimming most frequently occurs at restaurants, bars, gas pumps, or standalone ATMs (ATMs that are not at the bank). Basically, credit card readers that are not monitored are an easy target for skimmers. Try to pay cash or use terminals that have an attendant when possible. If anything on the card reader looks different (such as scratches, tape, broken seals, extra pieces, or loose parts) it could be a sign of tampering and the machine should not be used.
Additionally, skimmers often place a camera on the ATM or a fake keypad over the real one to steal your PIN. Try to use bank-operated ATMs instead of those at bars or gas stations, which are more likely to have skimmers.
While it is important to look out for skimmers, criminals often make them very hard to spot so it is important to monitor your accounts regularly and report suspicious charges to your bank immediately. Thieves will generally start using the account information 24-48 hours after it has been skimmed and continue until the account is drained or frozen. Early action can help minimize your loss and increase your chances of being reimbursed by your bank.
in skimming cases reported to the Secret Service in the last 3 years
| $1 Billion
annual cost of skimming to US banks
| $8 Billion
total annual loss for ATM and credit card skimming
You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.IdentityTheft.gov for more information on dealing with fraud, including setting up a fraud alert on your accounts.
And, as with any suspicious situation: if you see something, say something. Report any signs of tampering on an ATM or credit card terminal to the attendant or local law enforcement as soon as possible.
Huntley Safety 1st is the monthly education series written by the staff of the Huntley Police Department. On the first of each month, we provide citizens with information on a different public safety related issue.