How to check for skimmers
The most frequently used methods of skimming are used on the card reader insert area. Before using an ATM, be observant of the following parts of the ATM:
- PIN keypad
- Card insert slot
When visiting an ATM, check these parts for:
- Tape and/or sticky glue residue on any part of the ATM
- Bulkiness on the card insert area or the PIN keypad
- Anything hanging from the ATM
- Wiggle the card slot or keypad for loose-fitting attachments
So how can you spot a skimmer and reduce your risk of card fraud during your travels?
1. Use your eyes: Look before you insert your card.
Before you slide your card in a fuel pump or ATM, take a good look at the keyboard and card reader.
Does anything look different if this is an ATM you’ve used before?
Bad guys can use a 3-D printer to create a new keyboard to put on top of the real one. The keyboard might look different from the rest of the ATM, or the keys could look bigger.
With fuel pumps, is the seal broken? To place a skimmer inside a fuel pump, fraudsters must open the fuel dispenser door to insert the skimmer.
Station employees may place serial-numbered security tape across the dispenser door, so check to see if the tape has been broken, according to NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing. If there’s no tape, check to see if the dispenser door looks as though it has been forced open.
Also, look inside the throat of the card reader to see if you can spot anything hidden there. A skimmer inside a gas pump or ATM can steal the information off the magnetic stripe of your credit card or debit card.
2. Use your fingers: If something doesn’t feel right, move on.
Wiggle the ATM card reader to see if it’s loose. The crooks might place a card reader on top of the existing one.
You should also be wary if it’s hard to insert your credit card or debit card.
Some gas station credit card skimming victims have, in hindsight, remembered that the card reader had a weird feeling, like the slot had been tampered with.
3. Use your phone: Apps now can alert you to possible skimmers.
A free Skimmer Scanner Android app scans for available Bluetooth connections looking for a device with title HC-05. How does it work? If found, the app will attempt to connect using the default password of 1234. Once connected, the letter ‘P’ will be sent. If a response of ‘M’ then there is a very high likelihood there is a skimmer in the Bluetooth range of your phone (5 to 15 feet).
If your smartphone detects a skimmer, use a different pump or go to a different gas station.
How does Bluetooth relate to skimmers?
In the past, bad guys had to return to the the fuel pump or ATM to retrieve skimmers. That’s not always the case now. Thieves have begun to use Bluetooth technology to glean your credit card or debit card information. The crime is called bluesnarfing or blue skimming, and the crooks can sit 100 yards away in their vehicle while credit and debit card information is transmitted to their laptop.
4. Use your common sense: Use fuel pumps and ATMs in safe places.
Avoid gas pumps that are out of sight of the clerk and ATMs in areas with little traffic.
It’s particularly important to be cautious at nonbank ATMs, such as those located at convenience stores or nightclubs.
At banks, on the other hand, security is tighter, with cameras recording transactions and more people coming and going.
At ATMs, always cover the keyboard when you type your PIN. There might be a new brochure box containing literature next to the ATM, which crooks set up to conceal a pinhole camera. They use the camera to record you as you key in your PIN.