What is a Credit Card Skimmers?
A credit card skimmer is an electronic device that records or skims the data from the credit card so that data can be used or sold. Usually, the skimmer records all the required data to allow “card not present” sales using that card’s data. These compromised or skimmed card data are often sold on the dark web in batches of cards.
Types of Skimmers
The waiter or waitress – There are several types of devices most often used at a restaurant. Some wait staff have been caught using a small battery-operated skimming device. The waiter or waitress would simply swipe or skim the data on their way to or from the restaurant’s official credit card machine. There have also been several cases where the skimming device has been found attached to the restaurant’s official credit card machine.
Gas Stations – There are three types of skimmers that are used at gas pumps. The first type (well first two types) are devices that are attached to the circuit of the credit card reader on the pump. These devices are hidden inside the pump and the user of the pump would have no real method of detection. This internal device comes in two flavors, one is where the credit card details are stored on a memory device attached to the skimming device. Another flavor is where the device will send the data via Bluetooth to someone sitting in their car nearby. Since the range of Bluetooth is around 30 feet, this person would be fairly near the pumps and use a device to collect the data. They can also use their smartphone to interface with the skimmer. The Bluetooth skimmer is the more popular type as the scammer doesn’t need to access the pump again (increasing their risk and exposure) to retrieve the data from the skimmer.
The third type of device at the pump is attached to the outside of the pump. These devices are made to look identical to the credit card scanner and keypad of the pump. Most scammers use the internal type of device as the external devices are easier to detect and require multiple pieces (the device to collect the card data and often either a keypad or camera to record the card’s PIN).
ATM – ATMs are vulnerable to the same types of skimmers that are used at gas pumps, however, the external is the most common as opening up an ATM machine is more difficult than opening up a gas pump.
Stores – There are two types of devices that are most commonly used in stores. They are an external device that is made to look like a credit card machine. These devices usually overlay the entire device, snapping onto it and looking exactly like the devices. Some scammers have actually connected a device to the credit card scanner which reprograms the device and allows the retrieval of the credit card data. This is highly sophisticated and also very rare as it requires great skill, but is much more lucrative.
What Do They Look Like
How Do I Protect Myself?
The first thing to do is be aware of the devices and remain vigilant. Always inspect the device before you insert your credit card. Pull on the device where your card goes, inspect the keypad and the area immediately around the pump for cameras. Quickly scan the parking area for anyone within 30 feet that look like they are out of place. If you have the opportunity, use a Bluetooth scanning and detection device and scan the pump or ATM to check for the possibility of a skimmer sending data. Look for sealed tamper seals and report those that have been tampered with. If the attendant could care less, then go to another station. It isn’t like you can’t drive three feet in most locations and find another gas station. In my area of Virginia, the gas pumps are the 7-11 of the ’70s-80s, the McDonalds of the ’90s, or the CVS/Rite Aid of the 2000s, they are everywhere.
I know, you can’t use a different station, as their gas is not as good. Did you know that most stations are supplied by the same company and often the same truck? If the truck is not branded with a gas station name like Sheetz, then there is a great chance that their gas is the same as the next gas station, just a little more pricey. Oil companies have gotten really good at brainwashing people into like a brand, period.