Shield Yourself From Credit Card Skimmers

Since you never know for sure whether or not there’s a skimmer device on credit card readers you use, any swipe potentially puts you at risk of identity theft. The best you can do is to avoid explicitly dangerous situations. suggest the following advice to keep your credit card info out of the hands of identity thieves:

* Look out for the abnormal. If you’re at a familiar place and the card reader on the counter behaves differently in any way, cancel the transaction and ask the clerk to swipe it with the reader behind the counter.

* Be suspicious of self-checkout lanes. Since these machines aren’t as closely monitored by workers, there’s a better chance a thief has manipulated it. Your odds of exposure are still minimal, but those looking to be extra careful should consider shying away from self-checkout lanes.

* Select the “credit” rather than “debit” option. If you’re going to be defrauded, it’s better that the thief charge the money to you rather than take it directly out of your account. Credit transactions usually give you more leeway to fix fraudulent transactions.

Also, don’t forget to stay on top of your charges online to make sure nothing fishy sneaks past you.

4 Ways to Protect Yourself against Credit Card Skimming []


Edit Your Comment

  1. ShruggingGalt says:

    The first tip only works if the employee isn’t in on a skimming issue. Seems that about 50% of them involve employees or ex-employees….

    • DariusC says:

      Source? And the first tip is stupid. Slide your card and if things are strange then ask the employee to swipe? Wouldn’t your info be stolen already? Wouldn’t you start tugging at the card reader and notifying a manager? Did I miss something?

      • ShruggingGalt says:

        No source other than my own recollection of breaches small and large. Technically I think the tip is to see if the card reader looks different than it used to…different cable connecting them to the register, etc.

        The new PCI compliant card readers for customers to use are supposed to encrypt PINs immediately and then they transmit the PINs to the register encypted…so any device plugged in between would not be able to get the PINs. This helps prevent skimmers at gas pumps for example – the scammers loved being able to put a device in the transmission loop and steal the numbers without anyone being able to notice at the register or on the outside of the pump. (there is an old consumerist story on that!)

  2. jsweitz says:

    Card skimmers don’t care if you cancel the transaction or if you select credit instead of debit. Just the act of swiping your card through one is all the bad guy needs.

    What are you supposed to do to prevent a waitress from using a hand held skimmer with your card on the way to the restaurant’s terminal? I had the same mexican restaurant steal 2 of my cards last year (I was informed by each company 2 days apart – Dec 24 and Dec 26 2010 – Merry Christmas!). Found out later that someone else we know was told by their credit card company to not use credit cards at that restaurant.

    • conquestofbread says:

      You’d think that after getting caught that many times, the restaurant would do something about their employee’s credit card fraud.

    • coopjust says:

      If the reader is modified or another part of rest of the payment processing is somehow inherently insecure, a PIN could be captured in a debit transaction while swiping the card as credit would only allow a swiped card to be used in signature mode (lower liability for the cardholder if used illicitly by both federal law & zero liability policies) or card not present mode (no liability for the cardholder by federal law).

  3. Jevia says:

    5. Keep your card close to maxed out, paying off just enough to cover your own charges. That way, if the scammer gets your number, there’s no room on it for him to run up a bunch of charges.

    /snark (just in case that wasn’t obvious)

  4. madtube says:

    My wife got our card skimmed from a gas station over the weekend. Fortunately, she is in the military and had her superiors vouch for her whereabouts when the questionable charges were made. I am in the process of getting my money back, but I was with her when the card got skimmed. Being a paranoid person, I take extra precaution when it comes to skimmers and entering my PIN at ATMs. With all that, her card got skimmed on my watch. They are getting really good.

  5. carlathecommander says:

    I was hit by the self-checkout at the grocery store I go to. Apparently they had put the skimmer INSIDE the machine at 23 Luckys stores. My credit union someone found out my card was used there and had me come in and get a new one, before any money could be stolen.

  6. MedicallyNeedy says:

    Always “credit” over “debit” and I put sticker over the 3 digit code on the back. It can easily peel back when I forget the #. The sticker is just the “STOP!” from the original “STOP! Call 1-800-***-**** to activate this card.” sticker

  7. scoopjones says:

    This is one major reason why my debit card stays unused now and the credit card is my card of choice. Incidentally, here’s a great site that covers cyber fraud and a link to their stories on card-skimming devices:

  8. jeni1122 says:

    I really don’t know how my card has not been skimmed yet. I use my debit card for EVERYTHING.

    I do keep a really good eye on my account just in case, because I know that the skimming situation exists.

    After reading this article, I think I am going to switch to my credit card instead and just pay it off at the end of each billing cycle.

  9. kent909 says:

    I was just in Canada and all the restaurants we went to the server brought a handheld scanner to the table. Your card never leaves your sight. Don’t know if this is a law or just the way they do it, but seems like a perfect solution.