Scam Alert: How to avoid getting scammed by skimmers

Posted at 6:50 PM, Jan 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-19 18:50:42-05

Surveillance photos show a suspect stalking an automated postal machine where he placed a skimmer.

“He loitered around the lobby, acted like he was looking at pieces of literature. He would go to the machine, come back, go to the machine come back. Finally, he removed the device and was taken into custody,” says Michael Carpenter, a U.S. Postal Inspector.

He is one of thousands of thieves using skimmer technology to steal credit card information from unsuspecting consumers.

Here`s how it works: When you slide your card into a skimmer, it records the information on the magnetic strip.

“Itself, it isn`t that useful because most of the cards used are for pin based transactions. The camera then records the entering of the PIN number which allows them to match up the card number on the magnetic strip and the PIN number,” says Carpenter.

Thieves then take the information, download it onto counterfeit credit cards or gift cards and quickly make purchases.

Skimmers can be attached to any device that requires you slide your credit card to make a transaction ATMs gas pumps, and even stamp machines.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Be observant. Look to see if anything looks out of the ordinary.

“If it looks out of place, don`t be afraid to tug on it. If you pull on the card reader, if it comes off in your hand, you`ve likely found a skimming incident,” says Carpenter.

Another rule of thumb is to look at the gas pump next to yours to see if the card reader and setup look different. Unless skimmers are running a large operation, they probably are only skimming at one gas pump at a time.