Recently, a Costco location had to warn its customers that their credit card information may have been compromised due to an undetected skimmer being planted on one of the terminals. This kind of news is very scary, but how common is it really?
Credit Card skimmers work in exactly the same was as Credit Card scanners. Essentially, when you either swipe your card or use the chip, the payment information is transferred to a terminal, and then money is extracted from it automatically. Trustworthy entities only take as much money as is necessary; however, technically, if you have all of somebody’s information, you can extract as much money as you want from them.
This is how Credit Card skimmers work. They scan your card’s payment information like normal, but then transfer it to the bad actor. Those actors will then use extract as much money as they want from you.
Thankfully, these attacks are relatively rare. According to Kaspersky, a Russian cybersecurity company, peak attacks a month are below 2,000 in the entire United States. Considering how many purchases are made, this is an extremely small number.
Credit card skimmers are most often found on ATM machines and are relatively easy to spot. If the card reader seems bigger than usual, or is loose to the touch, then you should report it to the authorities as soon as possible - and should absolutely not put your card in it. This principle also applies to gas stations as well as self checkout grocery stores.
All in all, while this isn’t a significant threat, it should be taken seriously, and knowing the signs can save you both the money that gets stolen in addition to any hits in credit and inconvenience with getting a new card.
Be sure to shimmy those card readers!