There are several ways in which a card skimmer can be used.
Some skimmers are designed as standalone units through which a card must be swiped. For example, an unscrupulous restaurant employee might carry a skimmer so that he or she can run a customer’s credit card to pay for a tab and then run the card through the skimmer to collect the information. This type of skimmer can usually store numerous credit card numbers. The card skimmer is is a device which is designed to steal information from a card with a magnetic strip when the card is being used for a financial transaction.
The skimmer can be used to make a clone of the card which can be used for fraudulent purposes, or the collected information can be utilized for online and over the phone transactions which do not require a physical credit card, only the information.
The annual losses caused by card skimmers are difficult to estimate but appear to be upwards of several millions both in UK and US.
Another type of skimmer is a small electronic device which attaches to a cash machine or credit card terminal. Every time a card is swiped or inserted, the skimmer gathers the user’s information. It may be attached to a device which logs keystrokes to collect the personal identity numbers (PINs) of people who use the terminal.
Victims will notice unusual activity on their credit cards or bank account which should be reported to credit card company and bank. This will enable cards and bank accounts to be closed immediately and fraud investigation commencing.
Card skimmers can also be used to collect information from key cards, government identification cards, and any other sort of card with an embedded magnetic strip, so people should be careful about controlling access to such cards.
Protect yourself by being more aware. Always watch your card and cover the terminal when entering your pin. Try using different terminals and stagger times – do not use a regular pattern.