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Protecting Yourself from Credit Card Skimming

21 July 2013

Yesterday we talked about credit card skimming, and how it is one of the few things that prepaid credit cards leave you vulnerable to. Skimming is when a thief changes an ATM or Interac handheld machine so that they can later read all of the information taken off the black magnetic strip, or the embedded chip. Once they have your information they also have your money, and you may end up losing everything. At least all that was on that card. Unfortunately, there’s little you can do once your card has already been skimmed, so it’s even more important to take the preventative steps you can to ensure it never happens to you. Here are some of those steps you can take.

  • Always make sure you adequately cover the keypad when entering your PIN. Of course this is a practice that most have been doing ever since receiving their first debit card, but actually witnessing someone enter their PIN is one way criminals are able to use it.
  • When using an ATM at a bank, look for cameras pointing towards the entire machine. Because skimming machines take a few minutes to set up, and because the original machine must be taken apart some first, catching the thieves do it on video is a great step towards getting your money back.
  • Don’t use ATMs at banks that have had their access door broken. Many banks require that you insert your card to unlock the door to the ATMs or you’ll be denied access. If criminals have no problem stealing your info, they’ll have no problem with breaking through these doors either. It’s a sign that you should find another bank or ATM.
  • Don’t use ATMs beside other ATMs that have an “Out of Order” sign on them. Often ATMs equipped with the skimming device will be set up right beside it to divert unsuspecting consumers to the other machine.
  • Give any ATM you use a thorough once-over, especially around the card slot and keypad area. Is there glue or any other sticky substance present? Does the card slot look like it’s securely inside and actually part of the machine? Does it look as though it’s been tampered with in any way? These are all signs that a skimming device has been installed, and that you should walk the other way.
  • Go to the same ATM all the time. This way you’ll become familiar with it and know when something looks “off.”

Protecting yourself against skimming is one of the best things you can do for you and your money. Because as we found out yesterday, once your card has been skimmed there may be very little you can do about it.

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