Tips to protect consumers from skimming devices

Terry RogersHeadlines, Milford Headline Story, Police & Fire

Skimming typically involves the use of hidden cameras (top) to record customers’ PINs and phony keypads (right) placed over real keypads to record keystrokes. (Photo courtesy of FBI)

With skimming devices discovered recently at two local Dollar General stores, Milford Police are offering tips that can help protect consumers from becoming victims of these devices. According to the Secret Service, a skimming device is attached to an ATM or point-of-sale terminal. The device then collects card data that the thieves use to create new cards to make unauthorized purchases.

“ATM skimming devices are harder to detect,” information from the Secret Service said. “Although companies are constantly creating better security measures to protect consumers, criminals also adapt their methods. We suggest using an ATM inside of a financial institution where there are security cameras as these are harder for criminals to target.”

Sometimes, there are obvious signs of tampering, such as lights that don’t work or a PIN pad that seems loose or raised. It is also important to shield your PIN as much as possible with your other hand to avoid its capture by “pin hole” cameras which may be attached to the skimmer.

“As for POS devices, these are often a plastic overlay that look exactly like the original terminal,” the Secret Service said. “One suggestion is to pull up on the corners of the terminal or shake it. Skimmers are placed very quickly so they can often pop off if they are tugged. If any part of the terminal feels loose, do not use it and alert an attendant.” The Secret Service says that although it is more difficult to place a skimmer in a retail location, it is possible and is becoming more common.

“When there are reports of skimmers at businesses, the first thing many consumers believe is that it is an “inside job,” but this is rarely the case,” police report. “A thief can place a skimmer at an ATM or POS in seconds, sometimes while the clerk is looking at them or while other customers are standing at the counter. Many target stores or gas stations in areas with heavy traffic as they can be in and out quickly. By the time the skimmer is discovered, they may be in another state.”

Gas pumps are another location where skimmers are often placed. Many times, the skimmer is placed on top of the actual card reader, and it sticks out at an odd angle. Gas pumps also have a security tape over the cabinet panel. If this is broken or ripped, don’t use the card reader.

Sgt. Tim Maloney of the Milford Police Department stated that his research reveals forms of payment using your electronic device are often safer.

“Based off of research that I have done, it does appear that mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Pay are a safer form of payment,” Sgt. Maloney said.

Research indicates that although it is possible, phones are harder to hack than computers or credit cards. This means any financial information saved in your phone is likely safer than a debit or credit card. In addition, experts recommend using credit cards instead of debit cards as there are more stringent protections on credit cards. All consumers should monitor their accounts closely to be sure there are no unauthorized charges.

Statistics indicate that victims have lost more than $115 million over the past few years due to skimmers and 350 individuals have been arrested. If you are the victim of a card skimmer, there are immediate steps you should take. Immediately contact your financial institution and file an unauthorized transaction report. They will close the card and issue a new one with a completely new number. Place a fraud alert on your credit report. File a police report regarding the incident. Although finding this type of thief is difficult, the police can pull surveillance video and use other methods that may help them identify the thief.

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