Watch Out For Card Skimmers

Published On July 7, 2014 | By Tom Huskerson | Now You Know

Watch out for card skimmers. African Americans need to be on the look out for trouble no matter where they are. And using your credit or debit card is no different. Card skimmers are sneaky little devices that can hide on an ATM machine, gas pump or anywhere you use your card.  Krebs On Security has an excellent article about card skimmers and everything you need to now about them.

But what you want to know is how to avoid them. It is possible to spot a card skimmer and avoid getting robbed. And like a lot of things in the cyber world African-American should educate themselves to whats happening.

Lets start with what a card skimmer really is. A credit card skimmer is a portable electronic device that easily attaches to the front of or on top the actual scanner on ATMs, gas pumps, or any standard card reader. Point of sale or POS devices your see in stores are also card scanners. The skimmer is programmed to passively record your card data when you insert your credit card into the real scanner.

These skimmers are temporarily attached to gas pumps, ATMs, or other point of sale terminals. Thieves  like gas pumps and ATMs for two simple reasons. They are easy to retrieve and they get a lot of traffic. A thief needs only seconds to attach the skimmer and just as quickly can retrieve it.

Over the years skimmer  technology has become cheaper and more sophisticated as have the thieves. Thieves have used skimmers in concert with tiny cameras to record your PIN number along with the data on the magnetic strip. If they don’t use a camera thieves have gone as far as to attach  another key pad over the legitimate one to capture your PIN.  The fake pad records your PIN number while passing your PIN to the real keypad beneath it. Now let me teach you how to avoid this cyber scam.

First of all, and this is pretty simple, avoid any ATM, gas pump or other POS that does not look right. Trust your instincts because some gas stations are shady to begin with and anyone can set up their own ATM machine anywhere. You don’t have to be a bank. Bet you didn’t know that? If it doesn’t look right then keep it moving.

 Inspect that card reader and the PIN pad thoroughly.

Pull on it. Try to take it off. It may come off in your hand. Skimming devices are designed to be temporary so they can be easily removed by a thief. They often simply just walk by and snatch it off in an instant.  Check and see if it looks like the other card readers and key pads. Banks and merchants understand that skimming is on the rise. Some might have a picture of the slot and pad so you can see what it looks like. But I wouldn’t trust that either. Some really bold thieves have replaced the entire front of the ATM!

To see what some skimmers look like check out these examples of card skimmers so you’ll have an idea of what to look for.

I said earlier that skimming technology is advancing. Now thieves are using Bluetooth skimmers. These wireless devices connect directly to the pump’s or ATM’s power supply, and include a Bluetooth chip. The device transmits the card and PIN information to the thieves wirelessly. Thieves just pull up to the pump or ATM and download the information directly to a laptop.

Avoid using your PIN number at the gas pump.

When paying at the pump with your debit or credit card you sometimes have the option to use your card  as a credit or debit.  Choose the credit option.  This allows you to avoid entering your PIN for a camera to see or a phony keypad to record. And always, always be alert to strangers lurking nearby. Also when using your card as a credit card you only have to use use your zip code to complete the purchase. A much safer option.

Keep an eye on your accounts.

Black people don’t play when it comes to our money. So check your accounts regularly; like every 24 hours. The quicker you spot a fraudulent charge the easier it is to deal with. That means bank accounts and credit card charges.

Now you know.

For additional information on skimmers please visit;

The Verge: The tiny devices that steal credit card data are getting impossibly hard to detect.

Krebs On Security: The Rise of Thin, Mini and Insert Skimmers

Krebs On Security: All about Skimmers



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About The Author

Tom Huskerson Bio Born in Richmond Virginia Tom Huskerson is a military veteran who settled in California after his discharge. Tom attended Santa Barbara City College where he began his writing career as a campus reporter. He worked as an intern news reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press writing feature stories before moving on to San Francisco. At San Francisco State University Tom studied broadcast communications and began to focus on the Internet. He completed his graduate thesis on Internet advertising. Tom was the first student to ever focus on the Internet as a graduate student at San Francisco State University. After graduation he went to work for Zona Research in California’s Silicone Valley. As a research associate Tom supported senior analyst writing on the latest developments in the Internet industry. During the dot com boom Tom worked for several web businesses as a market researcher and analyst. As a writer and researcher Tom has authored various technical works including a training program for Charles Schwab security. Other projects included professional presentations on workplace violence and hiring security contractors. Tom has also written both fiction and non-fiction works and blogging for a travel website. He has published two books of short stories and completed two novels. Tom is the owner of Scribe of Life Literature and Tom is not the chief editor for the OnTechStreet. com. A news and information blog that focuses on tech news for African-Americans. The blog is the result of his desire to inform the African American community of the dangers and benefits of the cyber age. In his blog Tom reports on information security, new and analysis, scams and hoaxes, legal happenings and various topics that arise from the age of information. Tom believes that technology is a necessary tool for black people and they should know what is happening. Tom writes believing that techno speak is for the professional and that valuable information can be communicated using plain language. As a result he has embraced the motto, Less Tech, More Knowledge.

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