As regular readers of Scamicide know, skimmers are small electronic devices that are easily installed by an identity thief on ATMs and other card reading devices, such as at gas pumps. The skimmer steals all of the information from the credit card or debit card used which then permits the identity thief to use that information to access the victim’s bank account when the skimmer is used on a debit card. If a credit card is used, the identity thief can use the stolen information to access the victim’s credit card account. Each skimmer can hold information on as many as 2,400 cards. Recently, FICO Card Alert Service, a company that monitors ATM activity on behalf of banks issued a report indicating that last year the use of skimmers on ATMs increased by 600% over the previous year.
Always look for signs of tampering on any machine you use to swipe your credit card or debit card. If the card inserting mechanism appears loose or in any other way tampered, don’t use it. Debit cards, when compromised through a skimmer put the customers at risk of having the bank accounts tied to their cards entirely emptied if they do not report the theft promptly and even if they report the theft immediately, they will lose access to their bank account while the matter is investigated by the bank. Skimmers at ATMs are often coupled with a thin, clear electronic device that goes on top of the keyboard to capture the victim’s PIN to enable the identity thief to access the account of the victim whose account number was captured through the skimmer. Debit cards should not be used for purchases at gas pumps or for other retail purchases because the legal liability laws related to stolen debit card information are not as protective as the laws relating to fraudulent credit card use. The FICO Card Alert Service report noted that 60% of the skimmer attacks were done on private, non-bank ATMS so you may wish to avoid those ATMS when possible.
Credit card rules required the use of new EMV smart chip credit card equipment by retailers to process these cards by October 1, 2015 in order for the retailer to avoid liability. These rules, however, do not apply to the use of credit or debit cards at ATMs and gas pumps where the deadline to switch to the EMV smart cards is not until October 1, 2017 so you can expect identity thieves to continue to focus their attention on gas pumps and ATMs.