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Tips to Avoid Debit and Credit Card Skimmers at the ATMs and Merchant Machines

Grubby ATM

What Are Skimmers?

If you’re not aware, a card skimmer is a device inserted into a machine that reads debit and credit cards and steals the information off of it. For example, a skimmer can be inserted into a gas station pump and when you put your card into it, a scam artist can get their account information and begin siphoning off money.

This is what happening more and more. It’s important to be aware of this problem and look for ways to protect yourself.

Check The Display

Some 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 don’t use it.

If you end up in a situation where this happens, police suggest not telling either the gas station employees or the operator of the ATM. Contact the police directly instead because it is possible the business itself is in on the skimmer scam.

This will not protect you against all skimmers. Skimmers can actually be inserted inside the machine itself and can’t be seen. That’s why you also need to be vigilant and check your bank statements on a regular basis.

Protect Your PIN

Whether you are at the credit union or you are paying with a debit card, scammers are looking for an opportunity to get your PIN, allowing them greater access to your personal information. In addition to being on the lookout for fake card readers, scammers can put hidden cameras around ATMs and gas pumps to see your PIN – and they’re 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. If you’re entering your PIN, there is a very low-tech way to protect yourself: cover up the keys with your hand. You should always assume someone is watching you to see your PIN no matter where you are.

And as always, make sure you are checking your credit union and financial statements regularly to see if there are any charges you did not make. If you see any, report them as soon as possible.