Card skimming is a type of fraud that often leads to financial identity theft. It involves illegally obtaining credit or debit card information by attaching a small device, known as a skimmer, to an ATM or point-of-sale terminal. When unsuspecting users insert their cards into the machine, the skimmer captures and stores the data from the card’s magnetic stripe. As a result, The scammer uses this information to create counterfeit cards which can be used to make unauthorized transactions.
Card skimming is a serious problem that is becoming increasingly common. In fact, just last year there was a major card skimming incident at a major retailer that affected millions of customers. If you are a credit or debit card user, it is important to be aware of the risk of card skimming and to take steps to protect yourself.
The Risks of Card Skimming
Card skimming can lead to a number of serious problems, including:
- Financial identity theft: A scammer obtains your card information through card skimming and uses it to make unauthorized charges or withdrawals. This can cause you to incur significant financial losses.
- Loss of access to your account: Your credit or debit card account is compromised as a result of card skimming. This can lead to a loss of access to your account and the inability to use your card for purchases or withdrawals.
- Difficulty obtaining new credit: When a scammer steals your credit card information they may use it fraudulently, which it can damage your credit score. As a result, it can be difficult to obtain new credit in the future.
Warning Signs That Someone Skimmed Your Card
There are a few warning signs that you may be a victim of card skimming. If you notice any of the following, it is important to take action immediately:
- Unauthorized charges or withdrawals: This is a strong indication that someone compromised your card information.
- Receiving unexpected credit cards: If you receive credit cards in the mail that you did not apply for, this may be a sign that someone has used your information to open new accounts in your name.
- Receiving calls from debt collectors: If debt collectors call you for debts you do not owe, this may be a sign that someone used your information to open new lines of credit in your name.
Immediate Action Steps if Your Card is Skimmed
If you suspect that your card information has been obtained through card skimming, it is important to take action immediately.
- Contact your credit or debit card issuer to report the fraud. You can typically find their fraud number on the back of the card. They will also be able to help you close or change any compromised accounts.
- File a police report with your local law enforcement. Many agencies have departments dedicated to cybercrime. They will also be able to refer you to other agencies who can provide assistance.
- Visit IdentityTheft.gov from the Federal Trade Commission to file a report and create a personalized plan for recovery.
- Contact the credit bureaus to place a fraud victim statement and consider freezing on your credit.
Taking these steps can help you minimize the damage caused by card skimming and protect your financial identity.
How to Protect Yourself from Future Card Skimming
There are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself from card skimming, including:
- Use ATMs and point-of-sale terminals at trusted locations. Be aware of your surroundings when using ATMs and point-of-sale terminals. If you see anything suspicious, do not use the machine.
- Check for skimmers before using ATMs and point-of-sale terminals. Before inserting your card into an ATM or point-of-sale terminal, take a moment to check for signs of tampering. Keep an eye out for loose or damaged ATM or point-of-sale terminals, unusual card readers or someone loitering near an ATM or point-of-sale terminal.
- Cover your hand when entering your PIN. When using an ATM or point-of-sale terminal, be sure to cover your hand when entering your PIN. This will prevent thieves from using a hidden camera to record your PIN.
- Monitor your account activity. Be sure to check your credit and debit card statements on a regular basis. This will allow you to quickly spot any unauthorized charges or withdrawals.
By staying vigilant, you can protect yourself and your finances from card skimming and other types of identity theft.