Debit-card ‘skimming’ vs. ‘shimming’: Everything you need to know to stay safe

Published: Mar. 6, 2019 at 6:35 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Two of the biggest scams in America are ones you can’t see and you’re probably at risk for every day.

Debit-card “skimming” and credit-card “shimming” are two ways that hackers and committing identity theft and stealing your personal banking information. The two scams, while uniquely different in their attack, are equally as harmful. According to a survey by WalletHub, South Carolina was ranked as the 16th worst state for identity theft and fraud cases.

Here’s what you should know and how to stay safe.

Debit-card “skimming”

How to spot it: “Skimming” is one of the foremost issues in identity theft with debit cards. Hackers will place an almost undetectable cover over card slots and scan your information. The debit card will then be able to be accessed by any of the scammers with your card information. According to a study from FICO, in 2016 there was a 70% increase in debit cards that were compromised. Places like gas stations and ATM’s were reported as the highest risk spots.

How to stay safe: First, keep your pin safe. Cover it with your hand, don’t share it with anyone, and don’t have it written down - you never know who’s hands it could get into.

Secondly, check the machine. Try wiggling parts of the ATM or gas station slot, legitimate ATM machines are solid constructions that don’t usually have loose or moving parts and you might be able to discover the fake cover on it. Also, try to only use indoor machines - these are less likely to be tampered with due to higher security.

Credit-card “shimming”

How to spot it: Credit-card “shimming” is a relatively new way for scammers to steal your information. The hackers insert a small, paper-thin device into a credit-card chip reader, so that when your card is inserted, it reads the data on your card and stores it for their use. The information from the chip on your card can’t be used to clone another chip card, but they can create a version of your card with a magnetic strip and use it at stores that accept them - especially online retailers.

How to stay safe: “Shims” are very difficult to spot and almost impossible for stores to know if they are there - but there are some ways you can protect yourself. First, if you have a “tap and go” option for your card, like Google or Apple Pay, use that when available.

Second, know the signs of an unsafe card reader or ATM. Much like the “skimming," try to stay inside when needing to use the ATM. Also, some experts have said that your card might feel “tight” or meet with some resistance if a shim is placed inside the chip reader. Stop the transaction if possible and immediately alert the store.

As always, pay close attention to your recent transactions and notify your bank of any suspicious activity.

The Department of Consumer Affairs will hold two webinars entitled “Ditch The Pitch” at noon on Wednesday and Thursday. To register, click the corresponding day you’d like to participate.

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