How to spot credit card skimmers?

AffiliatePal is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.



Credit card skimmers are devices used by criminals to steal credit card information from unsuspecting individuals. These devices are typically placed on ATMs, gas pumps, or other payment terminals, and they can be difficult to detect. In this article, we will explore how to spot credit card skimmers and protect yourself from falling victim to this type of fraud.

Types of Credit Card Skimmers

Overlays: One common type of credit card skimmer is an overlay device. These skimmers are designed to fit over the existing card reader on an ATM or payment terminal, making it difficult to spot. The overlay captures the cardholder’s information when they insert their card, while the legitimate card reader still functions normally.

Wiretaps: Another type of credit card skimmer is a wiretap device. These skimmers are placed inside the payment terminal or ATM and intercept the electrical signals sent from the card reader. The wiretap captures the cardholder’s information and sends it to the criminals remotely.

Bluetooth Skimmers: Bluetooth skimmers are becoming increasingly common. These devices use Bluetooth technology to transmit the stolen card information to the criminals. Bluetooth skimmers can be placed on ATMs, gas pumps, or even handheld card readers.

Physical Inspection

One of the best ways to spot credit card skimmers is through a physical inspection of the payment terminal or ATM. Here are some things to look out for:

Loose or Misaligned Parts: Skimmers are often attached using adhesive or other means. Check for any loose or misaligned parts on the card reader or keypad. If something seems out of place or doesn’t fit properly, it could be a sign of a skimmer.

Extra Components: Skimmers may have additional components such as cameras or keypad overlays. Look for any unusual or out-of-place attachments on the payment terminal or ATM.

Hidden Cameras: Some skimmers use hidden cameras to capture the cardholder’s PIN. Look for any small holes or unusual objects near the keypad that could be concealing a camera.

Card Reader Behavior

In addition to a physical inspection, it’s important to pay attention to the behavior of the card reader itself. Here are some signs that a card reader may be compromised:

Tampered Security Seals: Many payment terminals and ATMs have security seals that indicate if the device has been tampered with. If the security seal is broken or appears to have been tampered with, it’s best to avoid using that machine.

Difficulty Inserting or Removing Cards: If your card doesn’t slide smoothly into the card reader or feels stuck when you try to remove it, it could be a sign of a skimmer.

Unusual Error Messages: If the payment terminal displays error messages that you haven’t seen before or asks for additional information, it could be a sign of a skimmer.


Being able to spot credit card skimmers is crucial in protecting yourself from fraud. By conducting a physical inspection of payment terminals and ATMs, paying attention to the behavior of card readers, and being aware of the different types of skimmers, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to this type of crime.