❗ Skimmer scams are increasing in New Jersey

❗ Police are warning consumers to be alert

❗ How to spot a card skimmer

An alert shopper noticed something wasn't quite right as he was about to enter his debit card pin number into a card reader at a Dollar Tree Store in Bayonne.

The shopper told ABC7 that the top right corner of the reader was peeled off a bit, and "when I gave it a tug, it came right off."

He had just discovered a card skimmer and may have avoided having his bank account drained by a scam artist.

This type of theft is not new but incidents appear to be rising.

Police in Middlesex Borough have also confirmed a skimmer was located at a Superfoods Store last Friday.

Keep reading to learn how to prevent falling victim to this growing scam.

BrianAJackson GettyImages
BrianAJackson GettyImages

What is a card skimmer?

A card skimmer is a device that is illegally installed on ATMs, point-of-sale (POS) terminals, or fuel pumps to capture data or record cardholders’ PINs.

Scam artists can recover that data and make a clone of your bank or credit card and run up thousands of dollars in charges or access your bank account.

They can take different forms and can be hard to detect. In most cases, they slide over the legitimate scanner to capture your data as you complete a legitimate transaction.

More sophisticated skimmers can be installed inside a gas pump reader and would not be noticeable to a customer.

Card Skimmers Detector
A variety of tools used to skim information from credit cards are displayed at the office of the New York Police Department's Financial Crimes Task Force. The U.S. Secret Service says more than a billion dollars is stolen from U.S. consumers each year by credit card skimmers, money that funds organized crime and which is usually passed back to consumers through higher fees. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

How can I protect myself from card skimmers?

The easiest way is to stay alert and visually examine the card reader you are using. You can also tap on the reader or gently tug on it. If there is a skimmer attached, it may come right off.

Financial experts also recommend regularly monitoring credit card activity and actively checking bank statements.

Street Gangs-White-Collar Crime
A New York City Police detective holds a credit card skimmer that was used by a street gang to copy metadata from legitimate credit cards for use in the manufacture of counterfeit cards and possibly identity theft. A new trend is emerging that shows street crews and local gangs giving up more traditional activities like gun point robberies or drug running for more white-collar varieties of crime like identity theft or credit card fraud. (AP Photo/Colleen Long)

Be especially alert for small charges. Often, a scammer will make a tiny "test" purchase to see if they have successfully accessed your account.

Once that charge goes through, they will attempt to make a larger purchase or withdrawal.

As skimming becomes more widespread and problematic, the FBI is also offering the following suggestions.

ATM and POS Terminal Skimming

✔ ATM skimmer devices usually fit over the original card reader.

✔ Some ATM skimmers are inserted in the card reader, placed in the terminal, or situated along exposed cables.

✔ Pinhole cameras installed on ATMs record a customer entering their PIN. Pinhole camera placement varies widely.

✔ In some cases, keypad overlays are used instead of pinhole cameras to records PINs. Keypad overlays record a customer’s keystrokes.

✔ Skimming devices store data to be downloaded or wirelessly transferred later.

Photo credit: Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Kamloops, Canada
Photo credit: Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Kamloops, Canada

Tips When Using an ATM or POS Terminal

✔ Inspect ATMs, POS terminals, and other card readers before using. Look for anything loose, crooked, damaged, or scratched. Don't use any card reader if you notice anything unusual.

✔ Pull at the edges of the keypad before entering your PIN. Then, cover the keypad when you enter your PIN to prevent cameras from recording your entry.

✔ Use ATMs in a well-lit, indoor location, which are less vulnerable targets.

✔ Be alert for skimming devices in tourist areas, which are popular targets.

✔ Use debit and credit cards with chip technology. In the U.S., there are fewer devices that steal chip data versus magnetic strip data.

✔ Avoid using your debit card when you have linked accounts. Use a credit card instead.

✔ Contact your financial institution if the ATM doesn't return your card after you end or cancel a transaction.


Fuel Pump Skimming

✔ Fuel pump skimmers are usually attached in the internal wiring of the machine and aren’t visible to the customer.

✔ The skimming devices store data to be downloaded or wirelessly transferred later.

✔ Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read "void."

Photo credit: National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and Conexxus
Photo credit: National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and Conexxus

Tips When Using a Fuel Pump

✔ Choose a fuel pump that is closer to the store and in direct view of the attendant. These pumps are less likely to be targets for skimmers.

✔ Run your debit card as a credit card. If that’s not an option, cover the keypad when you enter your PIN.

✔ Consider paying inside with the attendant, not outside at the pump.

If you believe you have been the victim of a skimmer scam, contact your financial institution immediately and then call police.

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