credit card skimmer

What Are Credit Card Skimmers and How Can You Spot Them?

It seems like every day we are met with yet another article about hacking or fraud. There are many lengths thieves will go to steal your information. A popular trend right now is a device called a credit card skimmer.

What are credit card skimmers?

A credit card skimmer is a device criminals attach to a payment terminal. The most common places these will be found are ATMs and gas pumps. If you use one of these terminals that have a skimmer attached, a copy of our card will be stored as well as your PIN.

ATMs and gas pumps are used frequently, so it is important to be aware of these attacks. As with anything in the technology world, these types of attacks continue to get more advanced, but with a little bit of knowledge we can spot most skimmers.


How skimmers work

A credit card skimmer is typically made up of two components. The first part is a small device that is generally inserted over the card slot. The second part of this device is a camera. A small camera is placed somewhere it can see the keyboard. The camera is pointed at the keypad so it captures you entering in your PIN. The combination of these two components means that the hackers have now copied your debit card and have your PIN number.

Once they have access to this information, hackers can use a program to make a fake card and use it in other ATMs using your PIN to withdraw money from your accounts.

These skimmers generally store the data on the actual hacking device itself.  This means that the hackers have to physically return to the location in order to get the data that it stole.


How to spot credit card skimmers

If you are concerned about the possibility of your information being scanned, here are some tips and tricks to spot a credit card skimmer.

*Look at the terminal

The first thing to do is take a look at the terminal. Check for obvious signs of tampering. Does anything look out of place? Check to make sure graphics line up or if there are different color or material. If there is an additional machine around you, compare the two models and see if there are any differences.

*Jiggle the card reader

Sometimes you can look at a terminal and see that there has been some tampering and damage, but often times you can’t see anything visual. ATMs are solidly built and typically don’t have any loose parts. Give the credit card reader a jiggle and see if the it has any loose parts. Skimmers have to read the magnetic strip in one single motion, so as you are inserting the card wiggle it to foil the skimmer.

*Check for cameras

A camera is needed to record your PIN. Think like a hacker when checking for a camera on the machine. This camera needs to be placed where it can see the keypad. When in doubt, cover the keypad with your hand while entering in your PIN.

*Check the keypad

Hackers don’t always use a camera to obtain your PIN. They can use a keypad overlay. Does the keypad look too thick or different than another time you have used the machine?


It is unfortunately easy to have your information stolen. If you swipe your card and you don’t notice a car skimmer, don’t panic. Take the time to report the theft as soon as you notice it. Timely reporting is very important in cases fraud. Stay vigilant and protect yourself especially during peak shopping times like this holiday season.