Skip to Content
Credit card security

We talk a lot about keeping your financial information safe and secure online. But what about when you’re doing business in the real world? Do you just assume your transactions are secure? Unfortunately, they’re not. Any time money changes hands — whether in person or online —there are thieves and scammers ready to insert themselves in the process. Here’s what to look for, and how to keep your financial information safe, when using credit and debit cards offline.   Skimmers, Shimmers and credit card security

Have You Heard of Skimmers and Shimmers?

These are devices thieves install on point-of-purchase card readers and ATMs to harvest customers’ data. Once they have the information, they can create clone accounts and conduct fraudulent transactions, or sell the data to those who will.

  • Skimmers collect data from the magnetic strip on a card
  • Shimmers get the data from the chip on the front of the card

Additionally, skimmers will often be accompanied by a tiny camera placed nearby to collect video of customers entering their PIN numbers.

Here’s How to Spot Them

We’ll start with skimmers, which are placed externally and have many tell-tale warning signs to let you know they’re there. When you are using a card reader or ATM, look for:

  • Any obvious signs of tampering
  • Loose or jiggling parts; it should feel sturdy and solid
  • Mismatched colors or materials
  • Misplaced stickers or signs; misspelled words

Also, the keypad should be easy to use and feel responsive. If the buttons are hard to press or it feels bulky, it could be an overlay designed to capture your PIN.

What About Shimmers?

While skimmers can be easy to spot if you know what to look for, shimmers aren’t. That’s because they are just small, integrated circuits placed on very thin pieces of plastic and hidden inside a card reader or ATM. If your card information is stolen via skimmer, you will not be liable for the fraudulent charges, but disputing those charges and cleaning up your account will take some time.

Where to Look for Them

Surveillance video has caught thieves installing skimmers and shimmers in almost every imaginable location, but some spots are more prone to having them. Outdoor ATMs or card readers are at higher risk for tampering, along with ‘self-checkout’ card readers at grocery and big box stores.

Everyday Safety Tips

While security experts and thieves are in a constant race to outsmart one another, there are some simple things you can do to help protect your financial information, including,

  • Using cash to pay whenever possible
  • Using indoor bank ATMs or going to the teller to withdraw cash
  • Always checking ATMs or card readers for signs of tampering
  • Signing up for text and email fraud alerts from your bank and credit card companies
  • Reviewing bank and credit card statements for fraudulent activity

Related Posts

The Truth Behind 5 Debt Settlement Myths

Debt settlement is one option for dealing with problem credit card debt. Consumers who choose this option work with a for-profit debt settlement company. The company negotiates with creditors to reach a settlement agreement for less than the total amount the consumer owes. During the negotiation process, the consumer opens and makes deposits into a […]

Read More

What to Expect from Credit Counseling

Offered by nonprofit agencies, credit counseling is a free service designed to help people take charge of their credit card debt and work toward financial stability. Some worry the process may be invasive or intimidating, but it’s anything but. Here’s what you can expect from credit counseling with a certified counselor. Objective Guidance Because they […]

Read More

Make Saving Money a Family Affair

Teaching kids of all ages important financial lessons about money and savings doesn’t have to be an unpleasant chore. In fact, it can actually be fun! The trick is to make conversations about saving money as frequent and natural as anything else you talk about as a family. Of course, what you talk about and […]

Read More
Font Resize

Call 866-528-0588

Or schedule a call now
Please complete the required fields to continue.
Now Later