Debit Card Data Thieves Are Getting Craftier With Skimmers

The use of skimmers to steal debit card data at ATMs and gas stations isn’t really a new problem. Consumer Reports, however, wants people to know that debit card data thieves are getting craftier in their methods of hiding the skimmers and stealing the data. These credit card data thieves are also figuring out how to get around some of the fixes merchants have in place to prevent skimmers from being installed.

One of the newest tools debit card data thieves are using is called deep-insert skimmers. This is a skimmer that disappeared into the payment device card slot after being inserted. Basically, it is an electronic device the thieves insert into the card slot to record the data on the magnetic strip of your debit card when you put it into the slot.

A closeup of an ATM machine that could have a skimmer in it
ATM machine [Image by Ensuper/ShutterStock]

The debit card data thieves are putting the new skimmers so deep into the ATM or gas station pump that they are going behind the shutter of the motorized card reader. This makes it impossible for the consumer using the ATM machine or gas pump to see the device. Debit card data thieves will usually use a combination of this device and a small camera in order to capture your information. The small camera makes it easier for the thieves to see what pin code you push into the keypad when you use your card.

T.J. Horan, the vice president of fraud solutions at FICO Card Alert Services, believes the problem has gotten worse as skimming technology is advancing and becoming more available to anyone who wants to use it.

“So we will continue to see increases in compromises and the speed at which they occur.”

Fico Card Alert Services recently conducted a study to determine just how big of a problem debit card data theft as become. The study revealed there had been a 70 percent increase in the number of debit cards that had been compromised in the year 2016 at ATM machines and other merchant card readers. The study also revealed that there was a 30 percent increase in the number of card readers that had been hacked as well.

Consumer Reports notes individuals who use nonbank ATM machines are at a higher risk of having their debit card data stolen by thieves. This includes using ATM machines at convenience stores or gas stations.

As technology continues to advance, debit card data thieves are using more than just skimmers to steal the information. Thieves are able to install data-stealing software into the card readers and extract information by hacking into the card readers where all of the information has been previously stored.

In some cases, a merchant is able to catch the person who installed the device when they return to the scene to get their skimmers back. The newer versions, however, transmit the information wirelessly making it unnecessary for the thief to return to get the skimmer back.

A person swiping their debit card to pay for something
Be careful when you swipe your debit card [Image by leungchopan/ShutterStock]

Once the debit card data thieves obtain the information from the card, they use the information to make a duplicate card and use the card to make purchases. Once the data is stolen your card may be used to make unauthorized purchases or the thief may just opt for withdrawing the money from an ATM. The sooner you notice someone has stolen your debit card data and started to steal money, the better.

Katherine Hutt – a spokeswoman for Better Business Bureau claimed that people really needed to be more careful with their debit cards.

“We have convenient access to our money 24/7, but so do scammers.”

How can you protect your debit card data?

Considering how impossible it is to detect the new skimmers, it makes sense to wonder how you could protect your card data from theft. Fortunately, there are some protective steps you can take.

Avoid remote ATMS and point-of-sale terminals

When an ATM or card reader machine does not get a lot of traffic or is in a poorly lit area, it is a prime target for tampering. The same is true of gas pumps at gas stations without a lot of traffic. Owen Wild, the director of marketing for security solutions at NCR Corporation, claims the drive-up ATM machines at banks are your safest option, but nothing is 100 percent safe.

Protect your PIN number

Always place your other hand over the keypad when punching in your PIN code. This will make it harder for someone who has a camera installed to see what your PIN number is.

The last – and best – way to protect your debit card data is to check your transactions. Keep a close eye on your bank account and always know exactly how much money is in your account. You should also consider setting up alerts for large purchases. Some bank accounts can even be set up to make you confirm you are the one making a large purchase before the transaction actually goes through.

Have you or someone you known ever been the victim of debit card theft?

[Featured Image by Khongtham/Shutterstock]