Credit Card Skimming

By: Zack Nelson

All technological marvels have their drawbacks and this is true of credit cards too. One form of credit card fraud is skimming or making copies of information stored on credit cards. Every time your credit card leaves your hands, it becomes vulnerable to skimming.

Skimming In Public Places

Skimming usually takes place in a retail store, restaurant or a shop. A dishonest waiter or cashier may swipe your credit card for payment and then swipe it again with a skimmer. This is a small pager-sized device with a slot, which can be easily purchased over the Internet. It rapidly records the information stored on the credit card's magnetic strip. This information is passed onto thieves who paste it onto counterfeit credit cards. Your money is now in their hands. The only way to prevent this is to keep a close watch on your credit card.

Skimming also takes place at ATMs, especially in less-supervised non-bank areas like malls. They are set up for skimming before your arrival. It could be a plastic sheet inserted inside the slot, which prevents the machine from reading your card. A small camera fitted on the ATM records your PIN number while you try repeatedly to access your account. You leave believing that the ATM has swallowed your card. The thief turns up and takes your card and the camera. He can now withdraw large amounts from your account.

A superior technique allows you to withdraw cash but a camera records your PIN number while a skimmer inside the ATM reads your credit card.

How To Avoid Skimming

To reduce skimming-related risks, simply walk away if you find anything suspicious about the ATM. If the machine swallows your card, report it immediately.

Apart from these measures, always check your credit card statements carefully for surprise purchases. Keep low credit limits to minimize losses. Tear up all receipts, slips and statements after using them, preferably with a shredder. Credit card companies are also vigilant. They usually ring up customers immediately if they find unusual purchasing patterns. Newer technologies in credit cards and ATM machines also make skimming impossible. However, the changes are not yet universal. Till then, keep your eyes on your credit card.

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