What Is Skimming?

Skimming is a method used by identity thieves to capture information from a cardholder. Several approaches can be used by fraudsters to procure card information with the most advanced approach involving a small device called a skimmer.

How Skimming Works

Skimming can occur in any situation where a cardholder uses an electronic payment card at a brick-and-mortar location. Fraudsters can obtain information in various ways, and the technology that they used is becoming more sophisticated and challenging to detect.

Key Takeaways

  • Skimming is a method used by identity thieves to capture information from a cardholder.
  • Fraudsters often use a device called a skimmer that can be installed at gas pumps or ATM machines to collect card data.
  • Some machines act like point-of-sale technology. An acquired card is swiped, and a touch pad allows the user to enter a security code.
  • Card users are warned to keep their cards in their sight at all times and to cover the pin pad when inputting security codes at ATMs.

Skimming Approaches

Skimming allows identity thieves to capture information from a cardholder that can be used to make fraudulent transactions. Some fraudsters may simply photocopy or take digital photos of information that can be used fraudulently. Other more advanced technologies also exist, such as skimming devices designed for use in many different situations. At brick-and-mortar locations, a fraudster can use a small skimming device that allows them to swipe a card and obtain information from its magnetic strip. Some skimmers may also include a touchpad that allows the thief to enter a security code.

Skimming technology is becoming more sophisticated each year, and it is difficult for authorities to stay one step ahead. Some skimmers are as thin as a credit card and can be inserted into ATM machines and gas pumps.

Thieves can also build skimming devices that can be used at ATMs and other point-of-sale locations such as gas stations. Skimming devices can be installed on an ATM with cameras or overlay touchpads can also be added to capture individual personal identification numbers. Gas stations are another target where skimming devices can be easily installed since card readers are often outside at the gas pump and separate from a checkout.

Mitigating Compromised Card Information

Cardholders should be cautious of any suspicious devices involved with an electronic payment. In some situations, skimmers can be easily detected if a thief uses more than one device to complete an electronic transaction. To avoid providing having their card skimmed, cardholders should maintain possession of their card or keep it in sight at all times. Dining at restaurants with a collective checkout can also help to ensure a card is not compromised when taken from the cardholder.

Fast Fact

In 2017, the number of ATMs and point-of-sale devices that were used for skimming or fraudulent actiivites increased by 8%, according to the latest data by FICO.

Many businesses will integrate electronic fraud security systems into their payment process, which can protect them from all types of fraudulent approaches and cyber attacks. Payment card companies are also broadening their solutions for security and fraud prevention. Cardholders can check with their individual issuers through customer representatives or online resources to gain greater insight into any services or solutions that may be available to increase card security and mitigate compromised card information.