What is credit card skimming?

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Credit card skimming is a prevalent form of financial fraud that involves the unauthorized capture of credit card information for fraudulent purposes. Skimmers, small devices or software applications, are used to steal credit card data during legitimate transactions. This article will delve into the intricacies of credit card skimming, how it works, and the measures individuals can take to protect themselves.

How Credit Card Skimming Works

Skimming Devices: Skimming devices are physical tools installed on legitimate card readers, such as those found at ATMs, gas pumps, or point-of-sale (POS) terminals. These devices are designed to capture the data from the magnetic stripe or chip of a credit card when it is swiped or inserted. Skimmers can be difficult to detect, as they are often placed discreetly and blend in with the legitimate card reader.

Skimming Software: In addition to physical skimming devices, cybercriminals also employ skimming software to steal credit card information. This type of skimming involves compromising websites or online payment systems, allowing the attacker to intercept and collect credit card data entered by unsuspecting users. Skimming software is particularly prevalent in e-commerce and online transactions.

Data Transmission: Once the credit card data is captured, skimmers use various methods to transmit the stolen information to their own devices. This can be done wirelessly, through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connections, or by physically retrieving the skimming device. The stolen data is then used to create counterfeit credit cards or conduct fraudulent transactions.

Common Skimming Techniques

ATM Skimming: One of the most common forms of credit card skimming occurs at ATMs. Skimmers are attached to the card slot or placed over the keypad to capture both the card data and the PIN entered by the user. Criminals may also use hidden cameras or overlays on the ATM’s keypad to record PINs.

Gas Pump Skimming: Skimming devices can also be installed on gas pumps, where customers swipe their cards to pay for fuel. Skimmers are placed inside the pump, capturing card data as it is swiped. Criminals may use master keys or other methods to access the pump’s internal components.

POS Skimming: Skimmers can be installed on point-of-sale terminals in retail stores or restaurants. These devices capture credit card data when customers make purchases. Skimmers can be attached to the terminal itself or to the cables connecting the terminal to the payment processing system.

Protecting Yourself from Credit Card Skimming

Inspect Card Readers: Before using an ATM or gas pump, inspect the card reader for any signs of tampering. Look for loose or mismatched parts, unusual attachments, or anything that seems out of place. If something appears suspicious, use a different machine or notify the owner or manager.

Use Secure ATMs: Whenever possible, use ATMs located in well-lit, high-traffic areas. Criminals are less likely to tamper with machines that are easily visible. Additionally, consider using ATMs located inside banks or other secure locations.

Protect Your PIN: When entering your PIN at an ATM or POS terminal, shield the keypad with your hand or body to prevent hidden cameras or onlookers from capturing your PIN. Avoid using easily guessable PINs and change them regularly.

Monitor Your Accounts: Regularly review your credit card and bank statements for any unauthorized transactions. If you notice any suspicious activity, report it to your financial institution immediately.


Credit card skimming is a serious threat that can lead to financial loss and identity theft. By understanding how skimming works and taking necessary precautions, individuals can protect themselves from falling victim to this form of fraud. Stay vigilant, inspect card readers, use secure ATMs, protect your PIN, and monitor your accounts regularly to minimize the risk of credit card skimming.


– Federal Trade Commission: consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0216-protecting-against-credit-card-fraud
– U.S. Department of Justice: www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/credit-card-fraud
– Norton: us.norton.com/internetsecurity-how-to-what-is-credit-card-skimming.html