Skimmers are devices that are illegally installed on ATMs, gas pumps and any other point-of-sale terminals to capture debit and credit card information and record PINs.
The FBI estimates skimming costs financial institutions and consumers more than $1 billion a year, with some of those incidences happening right here in Cheyenne.
According to law enforcement, debit card skimming grew at an unprecedented rate of 368% from 2021 to 2022, and the first half of 2023 trended even higher.
So, how can you avoid having your card information stolen? Can you spot a skimmer?
What types of skimmers are there?
- Some skimmers are attached to the internal wiring of a terminal and aren’t visible. These are operated remotely with Bluetooth technology, and they can be hard to spot.
- Another type of skimmer is a “false front” card skimmer that can be attached to ATMs and gas pumps. The devices fit over the slot where you would insert your card and have the ability to read and retain account information. Before you swipe or insert your card in any point-of-sale device, you can try to rattle it or pull it loose. The legitimate terminals won’t move. If the terminal appears loose or comes free, it’s a skimmer.
Another technique used by criminals is to install a hidden camera somewhere on the machine that can capture your card number and your PIN. They can be hidden within a “false front” device, and the camera can be as small as a pinhole. You should try to cover your hand when you’re entering your number to avoid a camera capturing your PIN.
Tips to avoid skimmers
- At gas pumps, make sure the pump doesn’t show any signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the panel that will read “void” if the machine has been tampered with.
- Run your debit card as credit, so you don’t have to enter a PIN.
- Monitor your accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.
- Set up Account alerts in AirTeller.
- Pay inside when getting gas, or use a pump that is near the front of the store.