What is Credit Card Skimming? How to Spot a Credit Card Skimmer.

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It is a fact that the emergence of technology has given rise to crimes previously thought impossible. People who can swear they never misplaced their credit cards end up being victims of credit card skimming. This vice is one of the many reasons trust has become a scarce commodity.

Just the other day, Maya, my best friend, dialed me, crying bitterly. With heart-wrenching sobs, she informed me that her bank account had been wiped clean, with no dime left.

Maya is only one of the many targets of credit card skimmers!

In this modern-day era, fraud, especially credit card skimming, happens effortlessly without the use of guns. Do we then say that technology is doing more harm than good? It is about time to learn how credit card skimming works and how to avoid becoming a victim.

So, if you wish to learn more about credit card skimming, how it works, and how to avoid it do well to read through, we have all the information for you!

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What is Credit Card Skimming?

Credit card skimming involves the use of a device known as a skimmer to obtain a person’s credit card details in order to defraud them.

Scammers use credit card skimmers to get the card details from a card owner using several methods. Invariably, they are constantly looking for ways to get your card details.

When card-related theft is mentioned, people quickly assume that the cardholders are careless or have misplaced their cards. However, technology says differently. You can still be a credit card fraud victim even when your credit card is in your possession.

Here, the scammers don’t have to be with your card to carry out the act. They just set a trap by planting the skimming device and expecting that you walk right into it.

Presently, placing your credit card in your purse or bag doesn’t guarantee its safety. Also, unconsciously carrying out a transaction with the ATM or across the counter puts you at risk. You might get home only to receive debit alerts you never expected.

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How Does Credit Card Skimming Works?

A typical credit card skimming activity works thus: a fraudster retrieves secured card information through a skimming device known as a skimmer and uses it to make unauthorized purchases.

Basically, they attach a special device to machines that carry out financial transactions, such as Point of sale machines (POS), Automated Teller Machines (ATM), and gas pumps. Once inserted into these machines or card readers, they can access your card and get the card details.

The skimmer reads the magnetic stripe on every credit card inserted into the card reader. The scammer then retrieves your card details from the skimming device and uses them to access your money.

Other than this method, the hackers also place cameras somewhere that will record your PIN as you enter it.

Mind you, the device collates information like your name, card number, and expiration date. This information arms the fraudster with a key to your bank. This level of theft drains your finances with the speed of light.

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What are The Types of Credit Card Skimming?

There are three (3) types of credit card skimming and they are:

Skimming Device

As previously explained, this involves the use of a skimmer. It is attached to card readers to obtain their card details.

This is popular with gas pumps, ATMs, and point of sale (POS) machines.


Don’t think credit card skimming only occurs when you insert your card into a compromised card reader or ATM. These crooks walk down the streets and blocks looking for victims. They shove you and quickly put the device to use and collect your card information.


While you are entering your pin in the card reader, a camera might record you. Scammers plant cameras on the ceiling or even attach them to the machine.

Fake Keypads

Skimmers equally place fake keypads over the ATMs keypad to obtain this information. So while inserting your pin, the fake keypad captures your details.

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Other Types of Credit Card Fraud

Phishing: This is a very popular type of credit card fraud. The fraudster targets his victims by claiming to be who he is not. He creates a profile for himself that will be believable and often claims the identity of a reputable company.

He assumes such an identity to demand certain information. For instance, a call or mail from your bank demanding certain information from you may not scare you. In checking out their validity, you may see nothing amiss and give them what they want.

It will probably be too late before you get wind of the deceit. A closer look will reveal one or two differences in the name’s spelling of the bank or the logo. When next you get such correspondence demanding certain information, don’t be in a hurry to give it out.

Unsecure websites: This is another popular way of siphoning individuals. When shopping or browsing through websites, learn to observe the site. This can prevent you from losing your money.

While booking or shopping online, you will be asked to fill in your card details. Imagine if that site has been compromised. In doing this, you are at the mercy of the con man, who can immediately use your information to defraud you.

Taking caution before supplying your card details is a good move. However, this should not deter you from carrying out online transactions. The watchword is caution.

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What happens to Your Card After it Has Been Skimmed?

You will agree with me that card identity theft is on the increase. Losing your card details to these swindlers will affect you financially and mentally. Thus, recognizing the types or methods of credit card skimming will help protect your pocket as well as your mind.

When Skimmers have access to your information, it doesn’t end there. These thieves can use your credit card information for different purposes.

Interestingly, it ranges from creating a counterfeit card using your card details and using the cards for fraudulent activities on the internet. However, that is not all. The fraudster can go as far as selling your card information on the internet! Imagine the extent of the damage.

It is extremely dangerous for your card details to be used for criminal activities. This can make you a suspect in a criminal investigation you know nothing about.

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Who can be a Victim of Credit card skimmers?

Anybody can be a victim of credit card skimmers. Millions of Americans are victims of credit card skimming and fraud. In 2019, Americans recorded 271,823 reports on credit cards frauds. This positions the United States as the most credit fraud-prone country in the world.

As consumers adopt eCommerce and online banking, credit card skimmers and cybercriminals are constantly coming up with creative ways to defraud you.

You can’t stop using these electronic machines that carry out financial transactions, so you need to watch it.

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Common Places Where Card Skimming Takes Place

Skimming occurs in specific locations where such machines or card readers are used. These places are

  • ATMs
  • Supermarkets
  • Grocery stores
  • Gas stations
  • Department stores
  • Other retail outlets.

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How to Avoid Credit Card Skimming

Follow the following tips to avoid falling victim to credit card skimming:

  • Inspection: Maya’s experience keeps me in check. I look out for any telltale signs in any machine before inserting my card. You can’t be too careful these days. Check to see if the machine or card reader is in good shape, especially the panel region. This inspection will tell you if it has been tampered with.
  • Hand protection: When using the ATM or other card readers, use your free hand to cover the one inserting your card details. This will help prevent the hidden cameras planted by skimmers from capturing your details.
  • Control: Ensure you handle all card transactions by yourself. Giving your card to someone else to help you carry out a transaction is perilous. The magnetic strips or chip can be swiped to get your information, when in the wrong hands.
  • Be on the lookout: Walking down the street and avoiding people with suspicious body language can also help protect your card details. These people are everywhere. You can’t tell who is walking down the streets with a skimming device.
  • Monthly review: Constantly checking your monthly statements will alert you to any transaction you didn’t authorize. Any funny transaction will require you to contact your financial institution.

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How to Identify a Credit Card Skimmer

To protect your credit card information, be conscious of the environment where the card reader or machine is located. Learning how to identify a credit card skimmer is never easy. It will take you a while to identify a card reader that has been tampered with.

However, once done, it will aid you in spotting a card reader or an ATM that has a skimming device. This discovery can save someone else from credit card fraud.

Firstly, you can start by becoming familiar with the regular outlook of such machines. You will have to vet the machine or card reader for signs of tampering. Since they use cameras for obtaining card details, be on the lookout for cameras in those locations.

That POS in the retail shop that seems different is enough suspicion. In attempting to use the ATM or a card reader, and you notice something different from the usual way, walk away. Learn to follow your hunch.

If you still find it difficult to identify a compromised machine, ask an operator for help.

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What Should I Do When Affected by a Credit Card Skim?

The moment you notice that your credit card has been compromised, alert your financial institution. Your financial institution will take steps to protect your money.

Waiting until the last minute before reporting to your financial institution or bank will only make matters worse. Understandably, you didn’t notice when the crime was committed. However, take the step when notified.

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What Can be Done to Curb Credit Card Skimming?

Living in a society, you interact with people every day. Doing the right things starts with you. Edmund Burke said the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

As a community, reporting criminal activities will keep you safe and build trust. Reporting suspicious credit card fraud without waiting for it to happen is nice. Keeping quiet because you aren’t the victim will do you no good.

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Skimming, Shimming, and E-Skimming: The Evolving Trend

Now that you know how skimming works, you should also know similar concepts: shimming and E-skimming. A skimming device uses the magnetic stripes on your credit card to access your card details. The invention of credit cards with chips made it difficult for fraudsters to obtain people’s card details, hence their need to evolve.

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Credit Card Shimming

Credit card shimming allows the shimming device to read the chip on your credit card to obtain your card details. So while the skimmer reads the magnetic stripe on your credit card, the shimmer reads the chip on your credit card.

It is harder for you to identify the shimmer. This is because it is smaller and is usually placed inside the machine or card reader. Using the shimmer will not allow the scammer to create a counterfeit card with a chip. Therefore, he ends up creating one with a magnetic stripe.

However, you can shake the card reader to check for abnormalities since they place the shimmer inside. When fitting your credit card into the card reader or machine, if you notice even the slightest resistance, walk away.

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Credit Card E-skimming

E-skimming happens when a scammer inserts a software into a retail website in order to defraud people. The software obtains cardholders’ payment details.

As business owners are embracing virtual offices, so too are hackers, who are expanding their focus. So, while you are shopping on a retail website, you are at risk of being defrauded.

You can avoid being a victim by visiting secure websites with https, ensuring you permit alerts on your card, and constantly checking your account.

Conclusively, skimming, shimming, and E-skimming are all intended to do one thing: steal from you using your card details. As trends come and go, criminal minds battle to create methods that will help them stay current and useful in their craft. So they evolve and experiment.


What is credit card skimming?

Credit card skimming involves the use of a device fixed to a card reader or gas pump to retrieve card information. This information is then used to defraud the owner of the card.

What is a credit card skimming device?

This is a special device that enables an individual to obtain a cardholder’s details. The information gotten is then used to steal from the owner of the card. It is achieved by inserting or attaching the device to card readers, ATM, and Gas pumps.

How can I identify credit card skimming devices?

Identifying a credit card skimming device requires a certain level of carefulness. You will need to be able to tell what a normal card reader looks like. Then check out the panel area of the card reader for any difference in appearance.

What is credit card fraud?

This is the act of stealing or obtaining a person’s credit card details in order to defraud them.

How can I prevent credit card fraud?

You can do this by being careful with where you place your card and who else has access to it. You also need to watch out for card readers and the ATMs for signs of tampering.


People who constantly desire to deprive you of your valuables are around you. It won’t totally go away, but it can be curbed. It is your responsibility to take the necessary legal actions to safeguard your finances.

Applying the information stated here will enhance your knowledge about credit card skimming.

We hope this article provided the answers you seek. For feedback, reach us through the comment section.



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