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Here's How to Spot a Credit Card Skimmer

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

The number of ATMs and point-of-sale devices that were compromised in the United States grew by 8 percent in 2017, according to FICO. And 10 percent more debit cards were compromised. How does this happen? One method criminals use is employing a credit card skimmer. 

Learn how to spot these illegal devices, how to tell if your card has been compromised, and what you should do if your data has been stolen. 


How to Spot Skimmers

These devices typically fit over an existing card reader at an ATM or gas pump. There are a few ways to tell if a skimmer has been installed.

  • Jiggle everything. An ATM or gas pump should be solidly built and have no loose components. 

  • Check for consistency. Mismatched components could be a sign of tampering.

  • Look for broken security seals on gas pumps. 

  • Turn on Bluetooth. Skimmers use this technology, so signals could show up in your smartphone’s settings. 

  • Keep in mind that some of these measures won’t work on the more sophisticated, so-called “shimmers,” smaller devices that criminals can slip inside card readers.  


How to Detect Fraud

Keep a constant eye on all of your financial accounts. Spotting these incidents early can help protect you from further damage. The good news is, many companies are becoming more proactive, spotting suspicious activity and reaching out to consumers via phone call, text message or email to confirm that an authorized person is making these transactions. 


What to Do If You’re a Victim

To avoid more unauthorized charges, immediately report all suspicious activity to your bank or credit card company. Provide as many details as you can, including where you think the skimming occurred. You can also report possible skimming to the Federal Trade Commission, where they work to stop large credit card skimming operations.

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