Beware of Skimming Scams

Staying vigilant means knowing what to look for.

Make no mistake that identity thieves are as vigilant as ever. If you’re not sure what skimming is or how to protect yourself from becoming a victim, this post is for you.

Today’s thieves use methods like “skimming” to steal your info. Different from the days when a crooked employee would “skim” money off the top of a day’s sales receipts, this type impacts you directly.

What is skimming?

Would-be thieves skim your information by using a small electronic device that captures credit or debit card information. notes that the device can scan a card in seconds and store the information contained in the magnetic strip. Skimming can take place during a legitimate business transaction using a retailer’s pin pad. It can happen at an ATM or gas pump. It can also occur at a reputable business when an attendant takes your card for payment.

Either way, your card is exposed, with your name, credit card number, and expiration date collected.

Skimming happens frequently.

One reason is the ease of the crime. Skimmers can look seamless – and camouflaged on almost any type of card reader. The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department recently issued a press release warning community members of the risk of being the victim of a skimmer.

// ATMs and gas pumps

Skimming commonly occurs at gas stations or ATMs, with a skimmer device placed over the mechanism’s swipe pad or even inside the card slot. At an ATM, crooks may also install a small camera to capture you entering your PIN. The thief can then use the data to make phony cards, withdraw cash or even sell the information online.

// Restaurants or retailers

Corrupt employees may obtain a handheld skimming device to capture card data – skimming your card info during a seemingly routine transaction. These workers may even be part of a larger, online skimming ring.

What to watch for.

Another reason for the rise in skimming is that it can occur virtually undetected. For example, you may not realize anything amiss until you see charges you didn’t make on your account or have a transaction declined.

Skimming devices are also cleverly designed to blend in with the machine – making them hard to detect. You can protect yourself. Become familiar with what a normal (legitimate) card reader looks and feels like. Also consider this information from the financial literacy website,

// ATMs:

  • Beware of a card reader that protrudes outside the face of the machine. Also look for an “additional part” that seems to be attached to the rest of the card reader.
  • Watch for parts of the card reader that feel loose. Moving parts are a sign the reader may be tampered with or that a skimming device attached.

// Gas pumps:

  • Keys that are hard to press.
  • Look for a “voided” security seal on the fuel dispenser. When undamaged, the label has a flat red, blue or black background. If the seal has been broken, the words “Void Open” appear. A broken seal could indicate a thief has tampered with the machine.
  • A pin pad that’s thicker than normal or a “false” keypad covering the real one to capture your keystrokes. These bogus keypads collect your name, card number, PIN and zip code.

// Stay vigilant:

  • Monitor your accounts diligently – at least weekly. Daily monitoring is better. Track your accounts with online and mobile banking or a mobile app.
  • When entering your PIN, cover it with your hand. ATM skimmers often include a camera that captures your PIN entry.
  • Use gas pumps closer to the attendant. Skimmers are more likely to be on pumps farther away from potential observation.
  • Report suspected fraud ASAP.

We protect your account information.

At KALSEE Credit Union, we monitor your accounts daily for fraud. If we suspect something out-of-the-norm, we’ll contact you. Or we may decline a transaction until you verify it is legitimate. If you believe your card information has been compromised, contact us immediately. Provide us with as much detail as you can, where the event happened, the date, time, etc.

Together, we’ll keep your data safe.