What is "skimming" and how can you protect yourself?
Police in Massachusetts and across New England are warning shoppers to be careful after another Market Basket, this time in Chelsea, became the latest target of the card skimmer scam.
It’s not the first one this season—two Market Baskets in New Hampshire as well as their stores in Somerville, Haverhill, and Reading were targeted just weeks ago.
So, what is the card skimmer scam and how do you protect yourself?
How Skimming Works
Skimming is a form of identity theft. A scammer steals card information from a device modified to discretely install on to a card reader you typically find at the checkout line in a store, gas station or at an ATM.
As technology continues to get more and more sophisticated, skimmers can now be as thin as a credit card, making it sometimes impossible for store employees or authorities to identify them. Some devices use cameras to read your card information, others can take it from one insert or swipe of your card.
In addition, a skimming device can be in the form of keypad overlays, which go on top of the factory-installed keypad you are used to seeing on a POS or ATM. The keypad overlay can capture your PIN.
Protect Your Card
- Inspect the ATM/POS machine for any unusual cracked, crooked, or broken surface that can hold a skimmer before using it.
- Pull out the edges of the keypad to check for a keypad overlay before typing your PIN.
- Always cover the keypad with your hand while putting in your PIN.
- Use ATMs in well-lit areas, preferably indoors, as they are less vulnerable targets.
- Debit and credit cards with chip technology are less susceptible to fraud than magnetic strips.
- Use credit cards instead of debit cards when you have linked accounts.
- Contact your financial institution immediately if the ATM does not return the credit card after completing the transaction.
- When paying in gas stations, choose terminals that employees can see.
- Consider paying inside the gas station to an attendant rather than through the terminals.
Worried about skimmers? Try…
- Paying with cash.
- ‘Tap and Go’ feature on your Metro cards or your card from other institutions.
- Paying from your phone if you have a mobile wallet.
If you’re using a card reader and notice something is off, don’t hesitate to speak up. Ask an associate or manager at the store or bank to check it out. When no one is around, don’t use your card there—the inconvenience of finding another option outweighs that of identity theft.
Reach out to local law enforcement immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to this scam. Once you’ve alerted them to the problem, contact your banking institution about next steps to protect your personal and financial information.