Skimming of Credit and Debit Cards: What You Need to Know

Debit and credit cards are the most popular payment methods globally. From making your grocery run or buying your favourite pair of jeans, we love to swipe our sleek cards. But did you know these cards could be vulnerable to fraud?

The threat of bank card skimming to consumers around the world is growing. European banks have suffered losses of €211 million ($232 million) as a result of these illegal operations in just one year. More recently, the American retail giant Walmart found skimming devices installed in several checkout lanes.

It is crucial to understand the danger involved with using your debit/credit cards, and how you can stay secure while taking advantage of the freedom these cards offer.

What is Skimming?

In addition to the data printed on the card itself – name, card number, expiry date, or CVV code (card verification value), this information is also stored in the magnetic stripe and the chip of the card. Skimming is a criminal activity that extracts such customer payment data and transfers it to a fake card or use it for fraudulent transactions.

Criminals use different skimming devices to steal data without the victim even realising it. This usually occurs while making transactions at an ATM or paying at a tampered point-of-sale (POS) terminal. The bank card details are then used to make purchases, hire services, or withdraw money. Information can also be sold on the black market for third-party fraud.

How to Protect Against Skimming?

Here are some tips to help you guard against skimming:

Never leave your card unattended

Always pay attention to where your card is inserted, whether at an ATM or a POS terminal. If you handle the card yourself, even better.

Guard your passwords

Never share your card's secret number (PIN) with anyone, and don't write it down or save it in your phone. When entering your PIN, cover the keyboard with your other hand to prevent prying eyes.

Check devices for signs of any tempering

Before using an ATM or payment terminal, examine it for foreign objects or signs of tampering, such as overlaid keyboards or slots, loose parts, or traces of glue.

Avoid Dark or Isolated Places

Try to avoid poorly lit or isolated ATMs or payment points, as criminals take advantage of these locations to install their skimming devices.

By taking these precautions, you can be assured that your finances are safe while using credit/debit cards.

Refer to these resources for more information on prevention of skimming and fraud.

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