Protect yourself from credit card skimmers by learning to spot them

The next time you take out a debit card to swipe to pay at a store or gas station, be aware: credit card skimmers are surging.

Police across the country report a growing number of credit card skimming devices have been found in popular stores and gas stations.

What’s a skimmer? These devices are placed over legitimate card readers to steal your credit card information and PIN. You might not even notice they're there until it's too late.

Here's the scary part: installing a skimmer can take less than four seconds. Thieves often work in pairs—one distracts the cashier while the other quickly attaches the skimmer. Once installed, the thieves can capture your card data every time you swipe.

How to Spot a Skimmer

The best way to protect yourself is to be vigilant and know what to look for. Here are some tips:

Inspect the card reader: Give the reader a gentle tug before swiping. If it feels loose or
moves, it could be a skimmer. Look for any change of color: If a skimmer has been installed, it likely isn’t the exact
color of the authentic machine. Choose wisely: At gas pumps, use the one closest to the attendant or go inside to pay. Tap to pay: Whenever possible, use contactless payment methods like Apple Pay or
Google Pay. These generate a one-time transaction code that can't be duplicated. Get a chip card: If your card doesn't have a chip, request a replacement from your
bank. Chip cards are more secure than traditional magnetic stripe cards.

Why You Should Avoid Swiping Your Debit Card

Debit cards are especially vulnerable to skimming because they draw money directly from your bank account. If a thief gets your PIN, they can quickly drain your funds. Credit cards offer better fraud protection, and you're not liable for unauthorized charges.

Remember, always be aware of your surroundings and inspect the card reader before swiping.

If you see anything suspicious, report it to the store employee or manager. The FBI estimates credit card skimming devices cost consumers and financial institutions over $1 billion each year.

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