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Protect Yourself Against Card Skimming and Credit Card Fraud

Card skimming is on the rise and now causes over $2 billion in fraudulent charges each year. So, what is skimming? Skimming is a type of theft where crooks use a temporary device installed at the point of purchase to steal information from your debit or credit card. Crooks then sell your card information or use it to make fraudulent purchases. Most people hear of skimming at ATMs, but it can also happen at gas pumps and even restaurants.

With skimming on the rise, here are the top ways to protect your financial information from skimming and credit card fraud.

Inspect card readers and keypads at ATMs and gas pumps

Skimming devices often look realistic and are attached on top of the real card reader. To identify a malicious card reader, look for signs of tampering and wiggle the card reader to see if it is loose. Skimming devices are only temporarily attached to machines, so they are not as secure as a true card reader. Other noticeable signs of a skimmer include colors on the card reader that don’t match the machine, overlapping lines/arrows and lights that seem to be obscured.

If you think you have found a skimmer, check the ATM or gas pump next to yours and compare the card readers. If there are obvious differences, don’t use either one and notify the local police and the machine’s owner.

Cover the keypad and look for a hidden camera

Often, when crooks install a skimmer they will also hide a camera nearby. Cameras can be hidden in the card reader, placed at the top of the machine or off to the side in a brochure holder. Check for hidden cameras in the vicinity and always assume that someone may be watching you enter your PIN. Be vigilant and cover the PIN keypad with your hand when entering your information.

Keep your card in sight

At restaurants and bars, make sure your card is only swiped at a register. When servers walk away with your card, there is a greater chance of theft through personal skimming devices. Hold onto your receipts so that you can dispute potential fraudulent charges if needed.

Watch your account closely for suspicious activity

Use online or mobile banking to check your account often and set up alerts to notify you of account balances or large withdrawals. Report any unauthorized withdrawals or purchases to your card issuer immediately. Quick reporting can prevent future fraud with that card and help reduce your liability.

Stay alert in tourist areas

Skimming is a worldwide problem and tends to be more common in well-known tourist areas. Be extra vigilant when traveling and, if possible, only use ATMs at financial institutions, which are harder for scammers to access. Avoid ATMs or gas pumps that are tucked away or located in an unlit area. Because these machines are more hidden, they are a prime target for crooks.

Being attentive and cautious when using your credit or debit card at common skimming locations can reduce your likelihood of becoming a victim. If you do notice your account has been affected, notify your card issuer and bank immediately. To learn more about how to protect yourself, visit