Article | 1:36 min read

What are Skimming Devices?


What are skimming devices and how can you avoid them?

Paying for gas at a pump.

Skimming is a method identity thieves use to try and capture payment and personal information from a credit or debit card reader. Fraudsters use several approaches to gain card information, one of which is using a small device called a “skimmer” that reads your card’s information via the magnetic strip or microchip.[1]

How Does Skimming Work?

The typical skimmer is most commonly found at ATMs and gas pumps. Criminals will usually accompany a skimming device with cameras above or beside the keypad to capture the PIN number as you enter it.

How Do You Avoid Skimmers?

Help yourself avoid surrendering information to skimming devices with these steps:

  1. Check for any signs of tampering at gas stations and ATMs. Be on the lookout for keypad overlays that may be collecting your PIN number.
  2. Look closely at the card slot before inserting your card. Since most skimmers are glued on top of an existing card reader, they may be in a position to obscure a design detail or flashing light. Be sure that the area around the slot is secure and matches the overall design of the rest of the machine.
  3. Take a closer look at any suspicious parts of a card reader. Push on keyboards, protruding parts and anything that seems like it may have been placed there after the fact.
  4. Always assume that someone or something is watching you enter your PIN. Cover your hand just in case there is a skimmer looking to get that vital piece of information.

If you are a victim of skimming devices, act quickly to recover any damages. You will never be held liable for transactions made without the use of your card. Report the theft to your card issuer or bank as soon as possible to avoid additional loss. In the future, use an EMV chip rather than a magnetic strip whenever possible, and report any card readers that have skimming devices.


[1] Skimming, Investopedia

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