The next time you use your debit/credit card at an ATM or to pay for fuel at the pump, perhaps be a little cautious. Since the dawn of these convenient payment options, fraudsters and hackers have been prevalent in illegally skimming personal financial information through credit and ATM cards from the general public – RVers included.
“For quite some time this has been one of the largest fraudulent issues that we address within the ATM channel and it doesn’t seem to be abating very much,” says David Tente, executive director of the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA). “The skimming systems are getting more high-tech and the devices are getting smaller and harder to detect.”
ATM skimmers come in many shapes and sizes. They generally replicate the mold and design of where a card inserts and are in a machine for a certain period of time. Once a transaction is in play, the skimming device illegally obtains and stores pertinent financial information from the magnetic stripe on the back of a card.
“The only things that cannot be taken from the magnetic stripe are personal pin numbers,” says Tente. “But there are a few of ways fraudsters can access that information. First, they will place a pin-hole-style camera in the skimmer to focus on the keyboard to record the pin when users punch it in. As there is a time stamp on the transaction, fraudsters synch the pin information with the card and the pin can then be found out.”
In other cases, fraudsters place a thin keypad on the top of the real key pad. While you push buttons on the machine, you’re pressing the numbers on the skimmer pad. Fraudsters then download the pin from the device.
Ways to Prevent The Scam at an ATM or Gas Pump
- Always check to see if something is out place or unusual during a transaction.
- Look for devices that don`t usually belong to an ATM or payment system.
- Pay attention to your account balances on your debit and credit card(s)
- Cover up your pin code with your hand, book or magazine when inputting your pin number(s)
- Limit your ATM visits
- Use familiar ATMs when in a certain area or location
- Don’t pay for gas at the pump. Pay inside with the attendant
While fraudsters are aware that more measures are in place, Tente explains that skimming has been on the rise recently. That`s about to change, however, with a full implementation of EMV conversion across the U.S.
“EMV is the conversion to the chip card,” says Tente. “However, at this time, on the debit side, a lot of issuers have not even started issuing cards. Although EMV has been effective in other countries where essentially one network drives all the debit transactions, there are 20 networks in the U.S that drives all of the retail transactions. EMV was never designed to function in that kind of environment. So it`s taking more time.”
The point of sale liability shifts all occurred in 2015 except for fuel dispensers, while MasterCard will change over October 21, 2016. EMV technology for Visa will be in effect October 2017.
EMV is used in Europe and Canada, which resulted in a decline of skimming after being introduced. But that`s apparently changing again.
“We can’t prevent it all together,” says Tente. “There are anti-skimming devices on the ATMs that interfere with how the skimmers work and systems are in place to minimize access and detect when skimming is taking place. The chip will reduce this considerably, but it won’t prevent it entirely. Hackers and fraudsters may find ways to skim chip cards. No one has done that successfully yet, but that’s not to say it won`t happen.”
Don Ree says
Thanks for the informative article.
I have handed my card to the a clerk when the machine at the pump isn’t functioning.
Maybe I’m a little paranoid butOne problem with taking your card inside is what is to prevent someone behind the counter from coping your number and making a duplicate card?
Handing your card to the cashier makes it easier to pull your information. Anyone can get a card reader for free and download apps for free that will record all of the data on the magnetic stripe. It’s best to use it at the pump and look for anything that appears wrong. Scammers won’t typically add interceptors to ALL of the pumps at the gas station, just one or two. If you see one or more pumps that look fishy, talk to the clerk. They usually don’t care, but try to use one that looks like the rest. Same with ATMs. When in doubt, move about. 🙂
Roy Berry says
Actually, PIN ON CHIP/EMV isn’t foolproof either and they have been hacked previously in Europe, which has had this technology in use before us on our side of the pond.
Clint W. says
How do the scammers install these devices without being noticed by somebody or some video system? Don’t this businesses do a check each day, or maybe even every shift change, and look at the pumps condition? They got to go their some time to put paper in the printer. How long does it take to install these devices? If they are easy to install, then it would seem it is just as easy to use a car key and pry it off I would think.
Steve Fennell says
Here is an interesting link to address your question.
Thanks for your interest.
Just happened to me last week coming thru Vidal Junction in Mojave desert at the border into AZ. I paid at pump and the card thing looked weird. I stared at it for a full minute or two deciding. The long line at checkout, and the cars piled up behind me made the decision that I think led to my bank triggering a fraud freeze and leaving me stranded w/ my trailer in Kingman. Someone went to town in Vegas w/ my card number, creating a new card from my transaction.
This is the second time for me in less than two years. First time was also likely from a credit card transaction in Rancho cucamonga gas station as I was passing thru. I had several bank accts so it wasn’t an issue.
This time though, I was down to one checking acct and was really in a bind cashwise until a new card could be fed-exed to me.
Back to cash for me.
The two times I have been card scammed were both from paying inside. Close inspection of gas pump card inserts have kept it from happening at the pumps. You just have to be diligent in really checking them. If I can’t pay at the pump or pay cash, I find another gas station. I always check the transactions on my accounts each evening.