Learn How To Protect Your Debit Card From Scanners and Skimmers
According to the 2021 Annual Issue on Fraud Statistics by the Nilson Report, payment card fraud losses worldwide increased by 14% in 2021, exceeding $32 billion. With the number of payment card fraud and scams on the rise, debit card users should be aware of the potential security risks, two of which involve scanning and skimming.
These types of scams are still popular despite them being around for many years. According to an FBI article on skimming, $1 billion is stolen in skimming scams every year, causing significant damage to consumers and financial institutions.
In this article, you will learn how to protect your debit card from scanners and skimmers. You will also discover alternative payment methods that will keep your financial data safe during in-person and online transactions.
How Do Debit Cards Work? The Basics
A debit card is a payment card associated directly with your checking account, and you can use it in place of cash to pay for goods or services or to withdraw cash from an ATM. When a debit card transaction takes place, the card draws the funds available in your checking account to cover the payments. Typically, most banks only allow their debit cardholders to spend the funds they have in their checking account without being penalized with overdraft fees.
Every debit card has a unique PIN (Personal Identification Number), a security measure used to verify your identity during in-person transactions. When making a purchase or withdrawing cash with a debit card, you swipe, insert, or use contactless pay at the card terminal or ATM and must enter your PIN, although some vendors allow you to make a purchase without the PIN code.
When it comes to online payments, you need to type in the 16-digit debit card number, the expiration date on your card, and the security code (CVV, CCD, or similar) to make a purchase. You must also enter the billing address linked to the debit card for the transaction to be completed successfully.
Debit card scanning and skimming are types of fraud that usually occur during in-person transactions, but skimming can also happen online, as you will discover in the following sections.
What Are Debit Card Skimming Scams?
Skimming involves the illegal capture of a victim’s card information using a device known as a skimmer. The fraudster then typically sells the stolen data on the dark web or creates counterfeit debit cards to make fraudulent purchases or cash withdrawals.
Debit card skimming scams usually occur at point-of-sale (POS) terminals, ATMs, and gas pumps. Skimming typically involves:
- A device designed to steal your card information
- A camera or keypad overlay that steals your PIN
A Device Designed To Steal Your Card Information
A fraudster can insert a skimming device inside a card reader slot or place it on top of a card reader to perform this type of scam. When you swipe the card, the device steals all the information on it, such as card number, CVV, and expiration date. Skimming devices are typically small and well-hidden, making them difficult to spot.
A Camera or Keypad Overlay That Steals Your PIN
Fraudsters may also install a hidden camera near a keyboard or place a thin overlay over it to record the PIN and ZIP code that you enter when making a purchase or withdrawing cash at an ATM.
E-Skimming—A Digital Skimming Method You Should Look Out For
Debit card users should also be aware of an increasingly common fraud practice called e-skimming. Skimming attacks evolved from primarily physical to digital as a result of users rapidly shifting to online purchases since the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring fraudsters to change their tactics.
In this electronic version of skimming, scammers drive customers to a fake domain that appears to be a regular checkout page and then capture the card information as the customer enters it.
What Is Debit Card Scanning?
Similarly to card skimming, card scanning is a type of payment card theft where the fraudster with a scanning device gets close enough to your bag or wallet to scan your card number. This type of fraud is enabled by the fact that today’s payment cards typically work on Radio Identification Frequency (RFID) technology. RFID-enabled cards have a tag or a chip in them that sends or receives information, and this chip is activated when the card is held near a scanner to help carry out a wireless transaction. The fraudster has to be from 5-6 inches to a few meters from you to scan your card number, and they typically manage to do it in crowded places such as gas stations, buses, trains, and malls.
What Should You Do if You’re a Victim of Card Scanning or Skimming?
You likely won’t be aware you were a victim of scanning or skimming until you notice suspicious charges on your bank statement, which can happen days or even weeks after the crime took place. If you determine fraud has occurred, it is important to react as fast as possible and notify your bank to limit your liability for unauthorized charges on your debit card.
Consumer debit cards are protected by the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, which governs consumers’ liability for unauthorized charges on their debit cards depending on when they report the fraud. The following table offers these liability details more in-depth: