How Skimming Works

The devices planted on ATMs, gas pumps, or other other point-of-sale locations. Skimmers are usually undetectable by users — the makers of this equipment have become very adept at creating them, often from plastic or plaster, so that they blend right into the ATM’s façade. In other cases, skimmers can be inserted inside the card reader, referred to as “deep insert skimmers” and are virtually undetectable by visual inspection. The specific device used is often a realistic-looking card reader placed over the factory-installed card reader. Customers insert their ATM card into the phony reader, and their account info is swiped and stored on a small attached laptop or cell phone or sent wirelessly to the criminals waiting nearby. In some cases, the crooks do not need to return to retrieve the device in order to get the stolen data. In addition, skimming typically involves the use of a hidden camera, installed on or near card reader, to record customers’ entry of their PINs into the keypad. We have also seen instances where, instead of a hidden camera, criminals attach a phony keypad on top of the real keypad … which records every keystroke as customers punch in their PINs. Skimming devices are installed for short periods of time — usually just a few hours — so they’re often attached to an ATM by nothing more than double-sided tape. They are then removed by the criminals, who download the stolen account information and encode it onto blank cards. The cards are used to make withdrawals from victims’ accounts at other ATMs. The crooks will also attach the skimmer during times when it is less likely to be detected, such as right after a bank closes and right before then open again.

ATM Skimmer Diagram


How to Avoid being Skimmed – Inspect the ATM, gas pump, or card reader before using it – be suspicious if you see anything loose, crooked, or damaged, or if you notice scratches or adhesive/tape residue. – When entering your PIN, block the keypad with your other hand to prevent possible hidden cameras from recording your number. – If possible, use an ATM at an inside location (less access for criminals to install skimmers) or one that is easily visible from inside the building (crooks are less likely to try if somebody is watching). – Be careful of ATMs in tourist areas or other high traffic areas – they are a popular target of skimmers. – If your card isn’t returned after the transaction or after hitting “cancel,” immediately contact the financial institution that issued the card. Source:

This is not the only way crooks can get your card information – there are merchant or card processor compromises, point-of-sale device breaches, or the simple lost or stolen card. In any case, if you suspect your card has been skimmed or in any way compromised, please contact us right away at 1-800-478-4924. After regular business hours, please call 1-866-546-8273 to receive immediate assistance. Additionally, if you use our mobile app and your mobile device is lost/stolen, please contact us immediately.

For more ways to protect yourself, see here: