everything you need to know about card skimming


Woman using her card at an ATM.

Card skimming is a financial scam that costs financial institutions and consumers more than $1 billion in losses each year. Fortunately, there are many precautions people can take to protect themselves from this harmful crime. Continue reading to learn everything there is to know about card skimming and how you can avoid it.

what is card skimming?

Card skimming is a method of identity theft where scammers gain personal data from the magnetic strip on your card when you use it at an ATM, gas pump, or other merchant machine.

Skimming occurs when a fake card slot is placed on top of the original. This equipment contains an additional card reader, which is the skimmer. Using a machine with a skimmer attached will allow thieves to obtain your card information and PIN. They then use this information to create counterfeit cards and access your accounts. Debit, credit, and ATM cards are all susceptible to this scam if the machine being used has been tampered with.

how to identify card skimming

When observing a machine for possible tampering, start by paying close attention to the card slot and PIN keypad. Check to see if either appears more bulky than usual or if you notice any loose attachments. If the graphics don’t align or the keypad buttons are hard to press, this could be a sign that the machine has been hacked. Look for any glue or tape residue around the entire machine.

If you suspect a machine has a skimming device, quickly notify the establishment so they can investigate it. If you’re using an ATM machine from your financial institution, contact your branch and let them know the situation. If either party is unavailable, contact the police and alert them of the issue.

how to protect yourself from card skimming

pay close attention at the machine

Always quickly scan the machine before inserting or swiping your card. If another ATM or gas pump is nearby, compare them and look for differences. Sometimes fraudsters will attach cameras to the machine to obtain PIN numbers. Cover the keypad with your other hand when entering information to avoid any possible recordings.

pro tip: According to research, 60% of skimming occurs at privately owned ATMs - typically found in convenience stores, restaurants, and grocery stores. Avoid using these ATMs whenever possible for additional protection from skimming.

check your accounts often

Keep a close eye on your accounts and check them often for fraudulent charges. You can access your accounts more frequently and easily through online banking and your mobile app. Doing so will help you identify suspicious activity and get it reported to your financial institution faster than waiting for your monthly statements

utilize digital banking services

  • Mobile Wallet – Make contactless payments with Mobile Wallet by using your smartphone or watch instead of swiping your card.
  • Pay Anyone - Pay Anyone is a safe, secure, free, and easy-to-use service that allows you to avoid using the ATM by sending money digitally via text or email.
  • Text Banking – With Text Banking, you can receive information about your account without having to call your financial institution. This will allow you to check your accounts more frequently.

additional quick tips!

  • Pay inside at the gas station if their pumps don’t allow you to pay through your mobile wallet. Machines inside are also usually much more protected from scammers.
  • Machines in public view with security cameras are less likely to be tampered with. Seek out these ATMs and gas stations when you can.
  • Use “credit” instead of “debit” whenever possible. Skimmers will allow thieves access to your bank account if you run your transaction as “debit.”

what to do if your card has been skimmed

If you discover your card has been skimmed, contact your card issuer immediately. They’ll get the card canceled and help you determine what the best next steps are for the safety of your finances.

what’s next

At BlueOX Credit Union, we care about your financial health! This includes helping our members stay protected from identity theft and security attacks. With IDProtect® Plus, you can receive identity protection services, such as Identity Monitoring, Comprehensive Identity Theft Resolution Services, and so much more! Defend your family, identity, and credit, and sign up today.

IDProtect® Plus

If you suspect a BlueOx ATM or ITM has been tampered with or notice suspicious activity on your account, please contact us at (800) 648-8035. For more information regarding common financial scams, check out our blogs: Top 10 Cyber Security Tips and 10 Common Cyber Security Attacks.

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