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Security Response

Have You Been Skimmed?

Created: 08 May 2007 07:00:00 GMT • Updated: 23 Jan 2014 18:49:45 GMT
Yazan Gable's picture
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Or rather, has your debit or credit card been skimmed? Have you everbeen the victim of debit card or credit card fraud? Have you everwondered how fraudsters got your information in the first place? Youwere sure that you never let your debit card or credit card out of yoursight. You had made sure that the only online shopping you did was atsecure Websites when you used your credit card or bank account topurchase anything online. So how did they get your info?

There are a few ways that your information can leak through thecracks and into the hands of malicious fraudsters. But one of the mostpopular ways is skimming. Skimming is the process of recording the dataon the magnetic strip of a credit or debit card so that it can be usedlater in a fraudulent way. It isn’t the easiest way, but it producesthe most viable data for fraudsters to sell.

So how do they do it? Typically they use a card reader similar tothe ones that the bank or retail outlets use to process your purchases.These card readers are cheap and relatively easy to get. Some of thesereaders are small and can be carried around. A server in a restaurantor a bar might have one in their pocket. On their way to the till theypop it out, swipe your card and punch in any relevant numbers and yourinformation is stolen. Some of these readers are larger and morecomplex. Fraudsters have placed them on top of legitimate ATM machinesso that when you slide you card into that machine it is first read andrecorded by a reader that has been fit over the slot. In the case ofdebit cards, there is often a camera mounted to the ATM to grab thepersonal identification number as well, so that money can be withdrawnfrom the account later. Here is a great example of a video capture ofATM transactions by skimmers:

So what do they do with the data once it is stolen? Check out my blog on dumpsfor all the info there. What can you do to protect yourself? Using cashin situations where your cards would otherwise be taken from your sightis a good idea. Also, don’t be afraid to be a bit paranoid. If you seea server swipe your card through two different readers, ask the managerabout the process and let them know what you saw. If you come up to abank machine that looks a little bit different from what you remember,have a closer look, don’t just trust it blindly. If you aren’t sure,simply don’t use the machine. It may be a hassle to find anothermachine, but wouldn’t it be more of a hassle to deal with the theft ofyour bank account info? Of course, skimming isn’t the only wayfraudsters get your information. It is likely not even the most commonway, but it is definitely worth watching out for. So what are the otherway fraudster get your info? I will write more on that in my next blog.