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Card Theft in the Digital Age

Blog Post
2 min read
a hand inserting a card into an ATM

Now there is another reason to monitor bank and credit card statements each month. Scammers are using ATMs, gas pumps, and other point-of-sale systems to steal card details each time a user inserts their debit or credit card. This information is often sold to the highest bidder on the dark web. However, it’s possible to recognize the signs of digital card theft and guard against financial losses.

Here’s what you should know.

What Is Digital Card Theft?

Digital card theft occurs when someone accesses your bank or credit card details without your permission. Two forms of this growing scam are ATM skimming and point-of-sale shimming. Both rely on the victim inserting their physical card into an electronic system. The victim is often unaware that their card numbers were copied until they find suspicious charges or withdrawals on the account.

What Is ATM Skimming?

ATM skimming is a type of digital card theft that uses a small electronic device placed over the card slot and a pinhole camera placed near the keypad to steal financial data. Victims often believe they’ve encountered a broken ATM when nothing happens after they’ve input their card and PIN several times. Frustrated, the person usually gives up and leaves. These devices read the card data and record the PIN as it’s entered into the ATM.

What Is Point-of-Sale Shimming?

When you use your card to pay for purchases at a cash register, you are using a point-of-sale (POS) system to complete the transaction. POS shimming involves copying microchip data from smart or chip cards. Scammers  place an ultrathin shim inside card readers, allowing for theft of your data. Once the card is inserted, the credentials are read and sent to criminals over a wireless system or stored in the shimmer for later retrieval.

Digital Card Theft Red Flags

Such scams might make you fearful of using your debit or credit card. Once thieves have the data, they can create a duplicate card and use it to go on a shopping spree. However, you can use your card with confidence if you stay alert to digital card theft red flags. Inspect the card reader and refuse to use ones that:

•    Move when you try to insert your card.   
•    Display loose or bubbled security adhesive tape around the edges of the card insertion slot.
•    Seem bulky, off-center, or different in material than what you’ve previously experienced.
•    Curve outward where you insert your card, signaling a fake payment reader may have been placed on top of the original equipment.

If you notice these red flags, do not insert your card. Alert an employee so they can address the issue.

How to Protect Yourself From Scammers

Even if you miss some of the red flags, you can still take steps to protect your financial accounts.

•    Cover your hand when entering your PIN.
•    Review online bank and credit card statements at least twice a month for unauthorized withdrawals or charges. 
•    Sign up for transaction alerts to be notified each time your card is used.
•    Store cards in a digital wallet, which encrypts payment details with each transaction.

Thieves will continue to come up with new ways to try and access your financial accounts. But you can stop them by staying alert to their tactics. If you suspect your SAFE debit or credit card was compromised, contact us immediately at 800-763-8600.