How to protect yourself and avoid becoming a victim of card skimming

According to an article published in 2020 by the Wall Street Journal, there was a 35% jump in the number of attempted credit and debit card fraud as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It is therefore vital that, in order to avoid becoming a victim of credit card fraud, you know what kind of fraud is possible with your credit card and what you can do to protect yourself. Here we look at one type of credit card fraud – skimming.

How does card skimming work?

Tiny skimmers can be placed inside an ATM to steal the data off the magnetic strip or the metal chip on your credit or debit card. Data is harvested from every card that uses the ATM and the thief can use the information captured to create cloned cards or commit fraud. The data captured will include the cardholder’s name, card number, and expiration date. 

Most of the time an attacker will also place a camera somewhere in the vicinity in order to capture your PIN number as you put it in. 

Fraudsters have also adapted to the world of chip and PIN by creating more sophisticated skimmers, known as shimmers. These read the data from chip enabled cards. However, thieves are limited as to what they steal with a card shimmer. For example, they can’t create another chip card but they can use the information to make a magnetic stripe card to be used online. 

While this scam is hard to detect as the ATM machines look and function legitimately, ATM manufacturers have many defences against tampering, including radar systems, which can detect when objects are inserted or attached to the machine. That being said, a major skimming scam was unearthed in New Jersey in 2021 involving over 1,000 bank customers and almost $1.5 million stolen, so it is important to be vigilant. 

How to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of card skimming

To protect yourself from this type of fraud there are a number of measures you can use. The first may seem obvious but when you use an ATM check for any signs of obvious tampering. Card skimmers will often cover the flashing lights where you insert your card, for example. If this seems to be the case, avoid using that ATM and report the suspicious machine to your bank. You can view some examples of card skimmers attached to ATMs here.

Second, assume someone is watching when using an ATM and make a conscious effort to cover the PIN pad when putting in your PIN code. Criminals need your PIN to successfully commit fraud and so shielding it properly is a great way to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of card skimming. 

Third, try to use ATMs that are in well-lit, crowded spaces – as these are less likely to be a target for fraudsters. This is because any chance of being caught on CCTV installing equipment or tampering with an ATM puts a fraudster at a greater risk of getting caught.  

Fourth, if you use online banking, it is a good idea to turn on banking notifications on your smartphone. These notifications will tell you in real-time any activity happening on your credit or debit card. If you see any transactions you don’t recognise, you can immediately phone your bank and prevent significant damage to your savings. 

Today, most banks also have an option on their mobile and online banking platforms that allow you to block your card from further use. Toggling this option on will prevent a fraudster from being able to use your card for any transactions or attempted cash withdrawals. If you later decide that you remember making the suspicious transaction, you can toggle this button off and use the card again. 

Have you been a victim of card skimming fraud? What other methods of precaution would you recommend others take? Let us know in the comments section. And, if you have any questions or other technology queries, please tweet us at @techtroublesho1.

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