Recently there have been several incidents of skimmers being found on ATM’s in my local area. Gas station pumps are another common place for skimmers to be placed. Let’s talk about how to recognize these.
Imagine it: You’re on your way out for a night on the town and stop by the ATM to replenish your cash supply. You notice that your card seems to stick or is partially blocked when you insert it into the card slot, but you don’t think much of it and complete the transaction and take your cash.
The next morning you check your online banking statement and see that your account is very low, much lower than it should be. There are charges you didn’t make. Chances are your card information was captured by a thief using a “card skimmer” at the ATM you used.
What exactly is a card skimmer? A card skimmer can take one of two forms: One is an overlay that rests on top of the card slot.
Another type of card skimmer fits into the card reader slot and is more difficult to spot. These same skimmers can also be used at gas station pumps, so be careful there, too.
Both devices gather the information contained on the magnetic stripe of the card, and the information is stored on a memory chip. The cyber crooks need to physically retrieve the skimmer to download the data on the memory chip. Additionally, they often use micro-cameras placed on the ATM machine that can digitally record the victim’s PIN. The recording of the PIN entry has a time and date stamp that will allow the cyber thugs to match users to PINs.
The combination of the skimmer device and the micro-camera provides the cyber criminals all the information they need to use your card data to make purchases from the web. It also provides them with enough information to attempt identity theft of the victim.
It has recently been recorded that some skimmers are coming equipped with infrared (IR) antennas. IR is the same technology used on your television remote control. With this innovation, the skimmer can now broadcast the data captured from the card to a device nearby to be stored. The skimmer does not need to be retrieved to get the card data.
What can we do to protect ourselves from card skimmers? The experts at Lifewire have provided us with some good recommendations:
- Inspect the card reader and the area near the PIN pad. Make sure that everything looks normal and nothing is out of the norm. If it looks or feels funny, don’t use it.
- If the area has multiple ATMs or gas pumps, look at the other to see if they match or are different. If they don’t all look the same consider going to a different location.
- Avoid using your PIN at gas pumps. In most cases the consumer is given the option to use the card as a debit or credit card. Choose credit and you will not be asked to enter your PIN and the thieves will not be able to obtain it.
- Always check your account for non-authorized activity.
- Hide the PIN pad from view with your hand while entering your PIN.
Now you know what you need to about skimmers. Stay secure! And for more cybersecurity information related to the payment card industry click HERE.
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