For many consumers, carrying cash is a rarity. Debit and credit cards have taken over as the most widely used payment method. The convenience of not being given a handful of loose change must come at a price -- so how much will it cost you?
The fact that your credit card quickly and conveniently withdraws money from an account and transfers it in exchange for consumer goods is often overlooked. Most people in fact, don’t even bother verifying their account and the transaction that went through. This is an easily targetable characteristic associated with your average card-user. The way these users are typically targeted is through skimming.
Payment skimming is the act of discretely acquiring credit card information. What an attacker chooses to do with this acquired information is up to them. However, due to the lack of attention to detail and also fraud detection on high cost purchases, most attackers will withdraw small, unnoticeable amounts of money from a large amount of victims, rather than one lump sum of change. So how do they do this?
Attackers will often add their own, home-made skimming device to a location where debit or credit cards are swiped. Every time a card is swiped, the skimmer collects information and adds it to the criminal’s to-do list. The criminal can do a number of things with this information, from producing a phony card which they can swipe wherever, or just making a fraudulent purchase. Your credit card information could even be sold on the Dark Web.
These skimming devices can be found on gas pumps, ATMs, or even made to be mobile. Here are a few tips on how to recognize if a skimmer is in place.
There are a few different means of protecting yourself from skimming attacks. Many of them are put in place by the card provider themselves. Many cards are equipped with computer chips to contain data, rather than a magnetic strip. This is a much more secure option. In 2015, a new law was determined: if a store decides against utilizing this more secure chip payment method, they themselves would be liable for the fraud that took place. This ruling convinced most business owners to update their POS infrastructure.
Assuming your ATM transactions are safe isn’t wise. While you might think that these sorts of attacks don’t happen in your area, this ideology is foolish. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of being a victim to a skimming attack.
Where You Swipe is Important
Before you decide to swipe your payment card, consider your environment. ATMs in the corner of a gas station are a lot easier for a criminal to attach a skimming device to. An ATM in a bank is in a much more secure, well monitored location. Plus, you won’t have to pay those outrageous ATM fees if you are using your own bank.
Payment Has Gone Touchless
Paying for consumer goods has gone touchless. You can use a mobile app, or another touchless payment option. This ensures that your magnetic strip on your card never comes in contact with a potential skimming device.
Keep Your Card
Another simple way to keep your cards secure, is by keeping a close eye on them. This doesn’t have to mean following your waitress up to her POS system and monitoring the transaction. It means do your best to avoid situations where a merchant needs to take your card away, out of sight. They could easily swipe your card in their skimming device unbeknownst to you.
Monitor Your Transactions
Remember when we discussed how most people don’t closely monitor their transaction history? We’re not saying you need to keep your mobile banking app open 24/7, but we are suggesting that you take advantage of security offers your bank provides. Most banks will offer SMS notification. You will receive a text notification every time a transaction goes through over a certain amount of money. If you’re lying in bed, and suddenly you receive a notification that you just purchased something from Wendy's, it should be painfully evident you’re a victim of fraudulent activity.
If you’ve worked hard for your money, you should put some effort into keeping that money secure. For more information on how you can protect yourself in both your personal and professional life, subscribe to our blog, or reach out to us at (847) 803-0044.