Watch Out for Card Skimmers

Over the past few years, card security has become a top concern. As scammers have become more creative in procuring critical information from debit and credit cards, consumers need to be on the defense every time they make a purchase.

One thing that consumers need to watch for are card skimmers. While this tactic to steal card information is not necessarily new, it is something that has sparked attention as recent reports show that card skimmers are making a resurgence. Skimmers are one of many tools intended to steal personal information and then make unauthorized purchases.

Despite this being a frequent tactic used by scammers, it is still a topic that many people are uncertain about. So, let’s talk about card skimmers and what to look for to keep your hard-earned cash safe!

What are Card Skimmers?

A card skimmer is a device that is attached over or inside a card reader and copies credit or debit card number when the card is swiped. These skimmers are often found on ATMs and gas station pumps, and can be attached either to the outside or the inside of a card reader, often going unnoticed.  

Someone simply needs to slide their credit or debit card into a normal reader, and this device then skims and saves the information, including card number, expiration date, name, and address. Once the data is saved, the skimmer is then collected by the fraudster, and then the stolen card information is used to make large purchases.

How to Identify Card Skimmers

Identifying a card skimmer can be tough, as they can look exactly like a normal card reader and can go undetected. Here are some practical ways you can identify a card skimmer.

Always Visually Inspect ATMs and Gas Station Pumps

One of the best things to do when you are at an ATM or a gas pump (especially one that you are not familiar with) is to take a look at everything surrounding and inside the card reader, looking for anything out of the ordinary. While this may seem simple, taking a minute to quickly scan what is in front of you can save you from trouble down the road. Some gas station pumps will have a security seal sticker on their card reader, and checking to see if this has been broken will help you determine if there is a card skimmer on the reader.

Physically Inspect the Card Reader

After you visually inspect, now it is time to physically check the card reader. Most card skimmers are placed on top of the normal card reader, so if you gently feel around a card reader, you should be able to tell if a skimmer has been placed. Many people will gently rock the card reader side to side, and are able to easily tell if a skimmer has been fitted externally over the reader. Card readers should not move and there should not be any glue residue on the reader.

Protecting Your Credit or Debit Card

In addition to making sure all the ATMs and gas station pumps that you are utilizing are safe, there are other ways to protect your card information.

One way you can protect your credit or debit card is being selective about the ATMs and gas station pumps you use. Because scammers count on you using the chip reader without giving it a second thought, when you consistently go to ATMs or gas stations that are different, it may be more difficult to tell if something is off. Try to use ATMs and gas station pumps that you are familiar with, you are more likely to identify that the card reader looks different and could avoid having your information compromised.

Another safety measure that folks are taking is setting up digital wallets, such as Google Pay or Apple Pay. These digital devices add an extra layer of security and skimmers will be unable to steal your information. When you use digital wallets to make a purchase, a temporary, one-time use card number is given to the vendor/store rather than your true card information, which prevents your card number from being stolen. Setting up a digital wallet is easy and takes little time. You can even add your Blackhawk Bank debit or credit card and it will be ready to use the next time you make a purchase.

Here at Blackhawk Bank, we know how stressful it can be to make sure your information is protected, and we want all our clients to be aware of how scammers operate. Are you ready to learn more about how Blackhawk Bank can help you? Contact us today!


Jessica Hendon

VP Physical & Information Security

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