Thieves use a small device called card skimmers to copy card information during a genuine card-based transaction. The skimmer copies and records the card’s data from the magnetic stripe while the customer swipes his credit or debit card. The thief now has the card’s number, expiration date, and the name of its owner. 

Card Skimming Equipment

While crooks often install skimmers on the card swipers in gas stations or ATMs, they can put them on any equipment with a card reader. Tiny cameras usually accompany the skimmers at ATMs to record the user’s PIN.  

Inside Skimming

Skimmer thieves often recruit retail and restaurant workers who handle customer credit cards to steal card information for them. They supply them with a handheld skimmer that the employee uses to copy the customer’s card while performing the legitimate transaction out of view.

Card Skimming Results

Once in possession of the card data, the thieves have two different options of fraud. They can either produce a counterfeit card for instore purchases or use the card number to buy things online. Some thieves even sell the card data on the internet. The card owner won’t know someone stole his information until his next statement contains unrecognized charges, or the suspicious behavior may result in the bank blocking his card. Debit cardholders may even incur fees for account overdrafts.

Spotting a Skimmer

Unfortunately, thieves have designed card skimmers to fit nearly perfectly on the target machines. They don’t look out of the ordinary unless you’re looking for a problem. However, if you’re diligent, you might notice a magnetic stripe reader that extends well beyond the end of the panel. Sometimes, the reader may look altered, or the equipment appears flimsy and fits loosely.