5 ways to spot and avoid credit card skimming

Apr 3, 2017 6:23am

skimmingIn credit card skimming, a cybercriminal uses a malicious electronic device which ‘skims’ through your credit card data once the magnetic strip of your card is in contact with it. Thieves use skimmers to steal information from credit cards and take control of victims’ accounts.

Where credit card skimming occurs

Skimmers can be of various types and in various forms. The most vulnerable places are ATMs and card readers at bars, restaurants, gas stations and other similar locations. A cybercriminal could place a tiny camera in an ATM, for example, which would skim your keypad entry and store the information for later use. Bolder thieves use a slim, insidious electronic device on the swiping area of the card reader to steal its data. Once the thief has your card information, a clone of your card can be made within a couple of hours. 

How to avoid credit card skimming

In a nutshell, there is only one countermeasure to credit card skimming: carefulness. Be very alert and check, to your satisfaction, the equipment or any other means where you are using your card. Here are some safety measures:

  • Request a lower credit limit: It’s an effective and easy countermeasure for credit card skimming. A lower credit card limit ensures lower risks in case your card gets skimmed and you fail to catch the thief. 
  • Delete account information online: Cyber-skimmers are another big threat. Never save any of your credit card and account information online. Always use trusted merchants and payment sites while engaging in online transactions using your card. If you have your card details saved in any online portal, it is advisable to have that information deleted. Prevention is always better than cure. You never know when your account details might leak out if it is stored online.
  • skimmingKeep your cards safe: Never lose sight of your credit cards; it’s wise to put them in a safe or protected place when you’re not using them. If your cards are kept in a visible or easy-to-access spot like around your desk at work or in a credit card holder attached to your phone, it becomes easier for someone to find them and steal your information. 
  • Protect your PIN: Your personal identification number (PIN) is vital information to cybercriminals; if they can access this small piece of information, it is enough for them to take control of your account. So, keep your eyes open and be aware of protecting it by all means; be careful at gas stations, restaurants and ATMs, and take a good look at the surrounding area for anything or anyone suspicious before you enter your PIN. Go with your instinct; if you feel unsafe, completely avoid using your card at that location. 
  • Watch your account: Routinely check through all your transactions. Keep track of your account in a detailed manner. If you need to, use a separate personal notebook for keeping a watch on your account transactions and other balance related information. Doing these things will help you in taking prompt action if you find any discrepancy. A timely reporting of skimming helps to prevent such frauds completely. For information on reporting cybercrime, visit NCSA's ID Theft and Fraud page.

About the Author

Kate Ashton is a writer at SharkProcessing.com, a source for startups, small & medium-sized business owners and merchants to check plenty of genuine, unbiased high-risk merchant account reviews and articles before opting for one. Connect with Shark Processing through Facebook and Twitter.