How to Spot Card Skimmer

Posted on February 10, 2016

Card skimmers are attached to ATMs, gas pumps, and other places you swipe your card. The goal of a card skimmer is gather the information of all the cards used at that location and use that information to create fraudulent copies of the cards.

Card skimmers hide in plain site. They are designed to blend in with the ATM or other machine or into the surroundings. EMV chip cards are not vulnerable to this type of fraud because the thieves can't duplicate the chip.

Millions of dollars have been stolen using skimmed card information. Skimmers are easily bought and installed so they can show up just about any where. So, how do you protect yourself? How can you spot a card skimmer before your information is stolen?

The most common type of card skimmer is the overlay skimmer.

An overlay skimmer fits over the existing card reader and mimics it's appearance to seem like it's part of the machine.

How to spot an overlay skimmer:

Look closely at the card reader to see if it appears to be the same color, material, age, and quality as the rest of the machine.

Check to see if it seems to be protruding or not lined up quite right.

See if you can move or wiggle it out of position.

Check to see if the seal placed on the card reader by the retailer has been cut or tampered with.

A camera is usually paired with a card skimmer so that the thieves can get your PIN

Look for anything unusual on, around, or above the machine that could hide a camera lens. It's good practice to cover the PIN pad with your hand when entering your PIN.

Advanced skimmers also exist that may be more difficult to spot.

Some cover the entire machine, while others are so small that they can fit inside the card reader without being noticed. Restaurant or store employees could have a handheld card skimmer that you'd never see. Fortunately, not many thieves employ these methods because they are still expensive technology.

If you suspect a card reader is a skimmer, report it immediately to the owner of the machine. While EMV cards are a great protection against skimmers, it's always important to want you account for any unusual activity.