The Skimming Scam

digital media literacy digital safety digital well-being Jan 24, 2024
The Skimming Scam


By Cristian Helu, Seasonal Public Relations Intern | Digital4Good


2022 saw a 368% spike in compromised card information due to skimmers, with over 161,000 impacted cards — almost 5 times more credit and debit card skimming scams than the previous year!


Card skimmers are deceptive devices designed to mimic legitimate point-of-sale terminals. They are usually attached to a merchant's credit/debit card terminal to illicitly steal your payment data when a card is swiped or inserted into the card terminal. 


Card skimming has been a common phenomenon in businesses located near or on school campuses, such as gas stations and ATMs. In fact, there were at least two card skimmers found in ATMs at a California State University campus in early 2023. 


Many card skimmers target financially vulnerable populations, such as low-income areas or campuses. Whether in the form of false keypads or card-slot attachments, card skimming is a threat to the cybersecurity of students across the country.


Let’s discuss the risks that skimming poses to our children and students when making their daily card transactions.


Hold That Swipe

Once your card information has been compromised, your children may fall victim to financial fraud. As students tend to have busy academic, work, and social lives, they may not act quickly enough to prevent cyber thieves from conducting fraudulent activity.


Once the data is compromised, data thieves will typically conduct fraudulent activities such as using card data to make unauthorized purchases, cloning card data onto a blank card, or selling card information. With the cost of housing and food increasing 26% and 21% respectively from 2010 to 2020, money-hungry scammers can put an additional burden of emotional stress on families. While joint bank accounts and cards are great ways for teens to practice financial responsibility with parental supervision, they can easily jeopardize your family’s well-being if precautionary measures aren’t taken.


Let’s talk about what you can do to ensure your family’s financial data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.


Dodge Data Thieves

  1. Double Check

If the card kiosk seems suspicious or looks “off,” it does not hurt to double check if a card skimmer is attached. Encourage your child or student to carefully lift, pull, or tug the payment processing terminal in these sketchy instances, as many skimmers will be attached to the top of the terminal. If they find a card skimmer, they should call the police and report it to facility/campus authorities immediately. If they have already processed a purchase on the skimmer, instruct them to report it to their banking institution as soon as possible.


  1. Set Up Alerts

Many kids and parents do not realize their card has been skimmed until after it has been compromised. It is crucial for you and your student to regularly check your bank transactions and set up card alerts to get notified of new purchases. This will allow you to recognize any suspicious activity and immediately report it to the banking institution or card issuer for dispute, card replacement, and account closing.


  1. Digital Wallet

Another great tool for you and your children to utilize is the digital wallet. Digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay have become commonly accepted forms of payment in grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations. These companies receive your encrypted transactions from your bank 

account or card, then re-encrypt your financial data when it’s being used elsewhere, almost acting as an extra security wall between you and the stores you spend at.


  1. Tap-to-Pay or Chip Reader

The contactless payment feature is another great option. Remind your student of tap-to-pay, which allows you to make transactions with a simple touch of your card or phone and keeps your card from interacting with potential skimmers. The Europay, Mastercard, and Visa (EMV) chip reader function is also a good tool for your child to use, as it is designed to encrypt your chip information.


  1. PIN Pad Discretion

Even when the PIN pad is indented or has a cover, always use a free hand to cover the pad while entering your PIN number. If the potential scammers are business associates, they could refer to security footage to obtain their PIN number.


  1. Cash Over Card

When in doubt, cash it out. Sometimes, paying by cash is a more secure alternative to swiping a card. Determining appropriate times to give cash to your children (such as for smaller purchases like school lunches or movie tickets), as well as accounting for your child’s age and maturity, can protect them from fraudulent activity.

Bag Secured

Card skimming poses a significant cybersecurity risk for students nationwide. The potential repercussions include identity compromise and various fraudulent activities, such as unauthorized purchases, cloning card data, or the illicit sale of personal information. To safeguard against these risks, it is crucial for students to remain vigilant and take proactive measures to protect their financial security. Stay aware, regularly monitor your accounts, and report any suspicious activity promptly to ensure a safer digital environment for your children.


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