How to Avoid Debit/Credit Card Skimmer Fraud

At The Bank of Marion, your security is job one and we use the latest technologies to keep your money safe.  We also offer timely tips that you can use to stop crooks who are trying to steal your money.

Attacks by debit/credit card skimmers are a continuing threat. Too often there are cases where a person sees an unauthorized transaction on their bank or credit card statement without ever knowing how it happened. In many of these cases, it’s the result of falling victim to a skimmer.

What is a Debit/Credit Card Skimmer?

A skimmer is a malicious card reader attached to real payment terminals used by criminals to capture data from the magnetic strip on the back of a debit or credit card. These devices are smaller than a deck of cards and can be installed in minutes on an ATM, gas pump, or other point-of-sale machines. Criminals can use the collected card data to create cloned cards, or break into bank accounts to steal money.

On ATMs, these devices are usually placed over or inside the slot where you insert a card, and are made to look like they belong there. Also, criminals usually install either a camera above or around the ATM or an electronic keypad that fits over the existing keypad to capture a PIN. These devices are designed so that they do not interfere with how an ATM functions. We constantly monitor the ATMs at all our branches to prevent such criminal activities, but you can also help by being constantly vigilant.


Image of a debit card skimmer at an ATM

On gas pumps, skimmers can be as small as a thumb drive and can be hard to detect. Criminals can sometimes gain access to a gas pump key, which can be used at many pumps to install devices. In the past couple of years, skimming has advanced to include Bluetooth technology, which criminals use to keep from having to return to the gas pump to physically retrieve stolen data.

In some cases there are handheld devices, which can be used at places like restaurants where a waitperson scans the card when they take it to pay the bill.

Ultimately, the result is often fraudulent charges on your bank account that can take time to recover.


Protection Against Skimming Fraud

Here are some safety suggestions when using your credit or debit card at ATMs and gas pumps:

  • Go to the Bank Window – Instead of using an unfamiliar ATM at a bank where you usually don’t conduct business, go inside or use the drive-thru to withdraw money from your account.
  • Use EMV Chip When Possible – As stated before, the information on a card’s magnetic strip is stolen with skimmers. Using the chip on a EMV Chip card instead greatly reduces the chance that your data will be stolen.
  • Get Cash Back – Get cash back at the checkout when you visit a grocery store rather than using an unfamiliar or suspicious ATM.
  • Pay Inside for Gas – Opt to pay inside the gas station rather than risk your card information at the pump.
  • At the Table – At restaurants ask the waitperson to swipe your card at the table or go to the cashier to have the card swiped.
  • Ask for a Manager – To reduce risk to your card, ask a restaurant manager to take your payment.
  • Do Your Online Banking or Shopping Only on Your Own Personal Computer – Protect your personal and financial information by avoiding public-use computers.
  • Watch for Altered ATMs – If anything on the front of the ATM looks unusual, loose or damaged, it could be a sign that someone has attached a skimming device.
  • Cover the Keypad – When you key in your PIN, cover the keypad with your other hand to block anyone, or a camera from viewing the numbers you type in.

If your card data does get stolen, report the theft to your card issuer or bank as soon as possible. If your loss is reported in a timely manner you will not be held responsible for the lost amount and the money will be returned. Business customers, however, may have a difficult time getting money back because they do not have the same legal protection.

Lastly, pay attention to your phone. Banks and credit card companies usually have active fraud detection policies and will immediately contact you through a call or SMS if they notice something suspicious. Responding quickly can help stop attacks or at least reduce the negative impact.


Other Debit Card Fraud Protection Tips:

When you plan to travel, let your card issuers know your travel dates and destination.  If your card gets swiped at an unusual location, the card issuer may decline the suspicious transaction.

Set up Banking alerts through your Internet Banking for low balance alerts or negative balance alerts.  You can set alerts up through email or SMS Text.

Make sure your contact information at your financial institution is current.  The Bank may not speak to you if you are unable to provide the contact information that is on file.

Finally, check your balance frequently.