Money Monday: Don’t Get “Skimmed” — Protect Your Debit Card

Debit Card

Money Monday: Don’t Get “Skimmed” — Protect Your Debit Card breaks down places you should use caution when using your plastic and how do avoid being "skimmed."

Published January 23, 2012

In a world where it’s much easier to swipe a card than search for dollars and change, more people are using debit cards to pay for goods. If used at the wrong machine, however, swiping a debit card has numerous risks, including the possibility of your identity being stolen. breaks down places you should use caution when using your plastic and how do avoid being scammed.


Be Careful Using Outside ATMs

ATMs outside are oftentimes convenient. They are also one of the most dangerous places to use your debit card because thieves can easily “skim” your information.


Skimming is the process of capturing the data on a bank customer’s debit card by running it through a machine that reads the card’s magnetic strip and videotapes the person’s personal identification number (PIN).


Often times at outside ATMs, skimming devices are placed over the “real” card slot to allow criminals access to your information.


"If the public has access to [the machine], then someone has the ability to add skimming devices to it, position cameras on it and position themselves in a way where they could surveil it," Chris McGoey a security consultant tells


To avoid putting yourself in harm’s way, try to use an ATM inside a retail outlet or another high-trafficked, well-lit place.



Don’t Type in Your PIN at the Pump

Gas stations are also a place where you should use caution when using your debit card.

Gas pumps are notorious for skimming because skimming devices can be placed inside the pump card reader where it can’t be seen. Unlike using a credit card, thieves can create counterfeit ATM cards by stealing your card number and PIN from the pump, and then proceed to pull money directly from your bank account.

If you must use your debit card at the gas pump, Consumer Reports suggests choosing the screen prompt that identifies your debit card as a credit card so that you do not have to type in your PIN.


Beware When Ordering Delivery

Ordering food delivery can be a risky time to use your debit card. Cashiers tend to keep customer payment information online and small businesses rarely take the steps to safeguard your payment information.


When ordering delivery, if you can, use cash.


To reduce your risk of identity theft with your debit card, First Financial Credit Union suggests taking these precautions:


1) Inspect the ATM First

Before you use the machine, ask yourself if anything looks out of place. Is anything taped to the machine? Do some parts look loose, or a different color (for example, is the ATM silver, but the card reader is black)? Are there mirrors on the ATM?


If anything looks suspicious, don’t use it.


2) Recognize a Skimming Device

Skimming devices are usually stuck onto the machine with two-sided tape, or even Velcro. As noted earlier, some devices are even inside of ATM.


When using the device, don’t forget to look around for wireless cameras that may be attached to the ATM key pad.


3) Protect Your PIN and Account Number

Don’t tell anyone your PIN or account number. For additional safety, be sure to cover the key pad when using your PIN.



Most of all, to ensure your safety, check your monthly statements and make sure there are no unusual withdrawals. Don’t set yourself up for long-term danger. Protect your identity, by protecting your debit card information, today.



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(Photo:  PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou)

Written by Danielle Wright


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