How do skimmers steal credit card information? Northern California police warn of scam

(FOX40.COM) — Police in Northern California warned consumers of a scam that involves a device used to steal financial information from unsuspecting people who swipe their credit or debit cards.

The scam, know as “skimming,” uses illicit technology that can be undetectable to ATM users, according to the Woodland Police Department.

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How skimming works

Police said that as a part of the scam, a criminal will place a small device (skimmer) directly over an ATM card reader. The skimmer looks like a legitimate card reader and is able to scan and store credit card data from the magnetic stipe on the card.

“Thieves can install skimmers on gas pumps, or corrupt employees can have a skimmer stashed out of sight of customers, WPD said. “Once the card is run through the skimmer, the data is recorded and the thief can sell the information through a contact or on the internet.”

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They added, “criminals go on a shopping spree with a cloned copy of their credit or debit card, and cardholders are unaware of the fraud until a statement arrives with purchases they did not make.”

How to prevent skimming

The Federal Bureau of Investigation warned that skimming costs financial institutions and consumers more than $1 billion each year, however, there are ways to avoid becoming a victim:

• Keep your card in sight and never let anyone leave your presence with the card if you can help it. Use cash at restaurants whenever possible.

• Avoid using your PIN number at the gas pump. Instead, select the option on the screen that allows you to pay by credit.

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• Monitor your bank and credit card accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges or cash withdrawals and report them immediately.

• Check for some obvious signs of tampering at the top of the ATM, near the speakers, the side of the screen, the card reader, and the keyboard. If something looks different, such as a different color or material, graphics that aren’t aligned correctly, or anything else that doesn’t look right, do not use that ATM.

• If using a PIN number, always cover the keypad when entering it. The majority of skimmer setups use a camera to “capture the final puzzle piece.”

• If a skimmer is believed to be found, contact the local police department.

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