Skimmers are small electronic devices that are easily installed by an identity thief on gas pumps, ATMs and other card reading devices. The skimmer steals all of the information from the magnetic strip 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. In order to combat this fraud industry issued credit card rules that required new EMV smart chip credit card equipment be installed by retailers to process these cards by October 1, 2015 in order for the retailer to avoid liability. Wider implementation of the use of EMV chip cards at retail stores has resulted in a dramatic reduction in data breaches and credit card fraud at retailers using this equipment. The deadline for the installation of EMV chip card readers at gas pumps was originally scheduled for October 1, 2017. The deadline was later extended to October 1, 2020 and around the country there has been an increase in the use of skimmers installed by criminals at gas pumps. The EMV chip cards are more secure because the chip issues a new one-time authorization number each time that the card is used so that stealing the number used in a particular transaction is of no value to an identity thief.
But beginning in 2018 and continuing now with increased frequency we have a new problem that is affecting EMV chip cards. Shimmers are thin devices that can be inserted into the slot where an EMV chip card is inserted and can take the credit card number from the chip and use that information to make a duplicate non-chip credit card that can be used at magnetic swipe credit card processing readers. This flaw in the chip only occurs if the particular credit card issuer fails to use an integrated circuit card verification value (iCVV), not be confused with the CVV number that appears on all credit cards. The iCVV prevents the information on the chip from being stolen and used to create counterfeit magnetic stripe credit cards. Unfortunately, some banks issuing credit cards are failing to properly implement the iCVV chip card technology.
We as consumers are always better off using our chip credit cards rather than magnetic stripe credit cards whenever possible. As for places that do not use chip card technology, 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 the theft is not promptly reported and even if the victim reports the theft immediately, the victims lose access to their bank accounts while the matter is investigated by the bank. 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 to consumers as the laws relating to fraudulent credit card use. In any event, you should regularly monitor your credit card statements and bank statements in order to detect and report identity theft as soon as possible.
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