Cary, NC – A spate of credit card skimming reports in the Triangle has gotten people talking about the security of ATMs and gas station pumps for your cards. Here are some tips of how to detect skimmers and what to do to avoid them.
What Are Skimmers?
If you are not aware, a credit card skimmer (though it can work with a debit card as well) is a device inserted into a machine that reads credit cards and steals the information off of it. For example, a skimmer can be inserted into a gas station pump and when a driver puts their card in, a scam artist can get their account information and begin syphoning off money.
This is what happened this year at a gas station in Carrboro, which has gotten more people aware of this problem and looking for ways to avoid it.
Check The Display
Some credit card skimmers are placed right over the display itself to take your card and copy its information. So when you go to pump your gas or make a transaction with the ATM, give it a jiggle. This can be the slot where you put in your card or the key panel.
If it feels loose, do not use it. If it looks different than other ATMs or pumps at the same location, do not use it. And if you pop it off, definitely do not use it.
If you end up in a situation where this happens, police suggest not telling either the gas station employees or whoever operates the ATM. Contact the police directly instead because it is possible the business itself is in on the skimmer scam and it is better to be safe than sorry.
This will not protect you against all skimmers, however. With the case in Carrboro, the skimmer was actually inserted inside the machine itself and could not be seen. That is why you also need to be vigilant and check your bank statements on a regular basis.
Protect Your PIN
Whether you are at the bank or you are paying with a debit card, scammers are looking for an opportunity to get your PIN, allowing them greater access to your bank information. You do not only have to be on the look out for fake credit card readers, scammers can put hidden cameras around ATMs and gas pumps to see your PIN And they are harder to find than card readers.
The first piece of advice is to use your debit card as little as possible, as this generally opens you up to more fraud attempts. But if you are entering your PIN, there is a very low-tech way to protect yourself: cover up the keys with your hand. Frankly, you should always assume someone is watching you to see your PIN.
And as always, make sure you are checking your bank and financial statements regularly to see if there are any charges you did not make. If you see any, report it as soon as possible.