What Is a Credit Card Skimmer and How You Can Avoid Them

Experts estimate that compromises of ATMs and point-of-sale devices, like card readers at gas pumps, rose 8 percent in the U.S. in 2017. That followed a 70 percent jump the previous year. The main culprit: skimmers, electronic devices that steal credit card and debit card data via the Achilles’ heel of payment cards: the magnetic strip, or stripe, which continue to appear on newer chip-enabled cards.

While skimmers are placed surreptitiously over the card reader, a newer technology, called a shimmer, is even more difficult to spot because it consists of a small, thin chip that's tucked inside the slot of a card reader.

Alan Brill, Senior Managing Director, Cyber Risk practice in Kroll, a division of Duff & Phelps, notes how shimmers have made it relatively simple for criminals to steal data: "The crook could park nearby – within a hundred feet or so – leave a laptop running in the trunk of their car and walk away, coming back later to find all of the data stolen from the magnetic strips of gas pump customers' cards."

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