From The Wood County Sheriff's Office

Protecting yourself against electronic credit card “skimming”

Victims of credit card skimming are often completely blindsided by the theft. They notice fraudulent charges on their accounts or money withdrawn from their accounts, but their credit and debit cards never left their possession. How did the theft occur?

In credit card skimming schemes, thieves use a device to steal credit card information in an otherwise legitimate credit or debit card transaction. For example, credit card skimming devises are often placed on ATMs or even held in the hands of waiters or store employees. When a credit card is run through a skimmer, the device stores the credit card information. Thieves use the stolen data to make fraudulent charges either online or with a counterfeit credit card. In the case of ATM and debit cards, thieves withdraw cash from the linked checking account.

Victims of credit card skimming are often unaware of the theft until they receive a billing statement or overdraft notice in the mail.


Below are eight ways to protect yourself:

Keep your eyes open. Look carefully at the ATM and if it looks a little loose, you see scratches or sticky tape residue, be wary. Thieves often attach false fronts to ATMs.

Cover those keys. If there is a skimming device on the card reader, there typically is a pin-sized hole camera that is mounted underneath the top of the ATM. The camera is there to capture the ATM user typing in their PIN number.

Pay attention to your accounts. Although federal laws do offer some protection when a bank account is skimmed, these protections are not as ell-encompassing as the laws protecting credit card fraud. Banks generally require account holders to notify them promptly after a fraudulent transaction has occurred – the longer you wait the less likely you’ll get your money reimbursed. Keep a close eye on your account and notify your bank of any transaction that’s unfamiliar to you, regardless of how small.


Opt for credit. Whether you are going to an ATM or making a purchase in a store, use the credit option – it offers more layers of protection.


Don’t assume all ATMs are equal. Be particularly wary if you’re in a tourist area because those are prime targets for the ATM thief. Use ATMs that are inside banks when possible.


Trust your gut. Be vigilant and rely on your instinct. For example, if your card is declined but you know in your gut there should be money there, call the bank or check your account online immediately.


Be on the lookout for potential thieves. Don’t assume the thief isn’t watching you. Some skimmers use a combination of high tech methods (rigging the machine) and low tech methods (a “fellow customer” in line).


When in doubt, don’t. If something doesn’t feel right, whether it’s the look of the machine of the vibe from that “fellow customer”, simply walk away without using the ATM. Better to be safe than sorry.