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.


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.

Skimming Approaches

Skimming allows identity thieves to capture information from a cardholder that can be used for making fraudulent transactions. Some fraudsters may simply photo copy or take digital photos of information that can be used fraudulently. Other more advanced technologies also exist. Using a device called a skimmer is a popular approach. Skimmers are technological devices that can be built 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.

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 touch pads also added to capture individual personal identification numbers. Gas stations are also 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 a potential thief with the opportunity to skim card information, cardholders can seek to ensure that they 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.

Many businesses will integrate electronic fraud security systems into their payment process which can help protect them from all kinds 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 for helping to increase card security and mitigate compromised card information.

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