There are a wide variety of scamming devices available for the crooks of the world. Most recently, for those who thought we would all be safer with chip technology on our credit cards, thieves have a tool to rip you off with, the Better Business Bureau is reporting. Here’s your BBB’s update on the newer chip-theft devices that can be “shimmed” into chip readers.
It’s a constant race between credit card technology and scammer technology these days. Most people are aware of the skimmer devices that crooks have sometimes inserted in credit card readers to steal your information. As long as magnetic strips were only used in card readers, there was (and still is) the possibility that a skimmer had been attached to the reader. At first such devices were fairly easy to spot when attached.
More recently, things called “deep-insert” skimmers have even been showing up on gas pump and ATM card readers. They are inserted well inside the reader and are difficult to spot. Many of them transmit stolen data from cards wirelessly, and the thief doesn’t have to return to the location at all. Now chip technology has made us feel a bit safer about our cards. But that feeling may be unjustified.
Enter the shimmer, so called because they are tiny, razor-thin, sliver-shaped devices that look like shim spacers (used to fill small gaps). Shimmers first began showing up around 3 years ago and have recently gained a lot of popularity among crooks. They are even more powerful and can be practically impossible to detect. They are inserted in the chip reader at ATMs, gas pumps and stores. You might think that a chip reader is so narrow that there would be no room for anything in it besides your credit card. Think again. Thieves always find a way. As stated above, the devices are so thin that can be inserted and still leave room for your card.
Combating scammers, their shimmers and skimmers
• Stay mindful when using a credit card reader. If something doesn’t feel right about it, perhaps your card feels tighter than normal going into the reader, watch out. Also, if the reader device has any unusual look to it, beware. It may feel too loosely attached or it may have an unusually colored keypad. Consider those red flags of trouble.
• For skimmer protection, it may be a good idea to simply avoid readers without chip technology. (And even that can come with a risk.)
• Consider bringing enough cash to use in case you don’t like the card reader for some reason.
• Avoid using readers in remote, badly lit locations.
• Always protect your PIN by placing a hand over the keypad as you enter it. A tiny camera can be placed anywhere.
• Drive-up ATM’s are more often tampered with than those inside a bank.
• When withdrawing at a bank or credit union, consider dealing with a human instead of an ATM.
• Don’t forget: The main method of credit card theft is still the physical stealing of the card. Keep yours safely stored in your wallet or purse. Always know where it is.
• Don’t take bank and card statements for granted. Read them when they arrive but also check online frequently to be sure there is no misuse of your card.
It’s hard to keep up with crooks’ technology. Stay as aware as possible of what they’re up to and exercise caution with your cards. Your BBB is here to help. For questions or concerns, contact us at (800) 856-2417, or visit our website at bbb.org.