10 Tips to Avoid Credit Card Skimming Fraud: Let’s Play it Smartly

As per statistics, nearly 127 million users (one in three adults) in America alone are victims of Credit Card Skimming. But what exactly is Credit Card Skimming? How can you avoid it, and how does it affect your credit report? Let’s look into this card skimming in detail.

Also read: What is Hard Inquiry on your Credit Report & How it Affects Your Score

What is Credit Card Skimming?

Have you seen all those deductions on your credit card even when you have not made them? Though these are small deductions, your credit card is likely skimmed, and you are messing it up by not reporting. The average deduction made by fraudsters when they skim a card is $62, which totals to a near count of $8 billion each year.

Credit card skimming is an age-old technique when credentials of your credit card are stolen through external devices like a skimmer. 

But what exactly is a skimmer?

A skimmer is an added device on ATM machines placed by frauds that almost look like ATM’s own. When you place the credit card in such compromised ATMs, the magnetic stripe from your credit card is copied. Fraudsters commit a perfect crime by using a keylogger or a recording cam to steal your secret pin.

Though most magnetic stripe on credit cards are now replaced with EVM chips which are a little more secure, a bigger fraction of users still uses the old magnetic stripe credit cards. 

So, let’s check a few tips on how to avoid credit card skimming fraud in a smarter way.

10 Tips to Avoid Credit Card Skimming Fraud: Let’s Play it Smartly

Credit card skimming is an age-old technique, and thankfully, a lot is known about this type of scam. If you are a credit or debit card user, here are a few things you can do to prevent card skimming and be always aware of it on your next ATM cash dispense.

1. Check for Tampering 

One of the basic mistakes we make when dispensing cash from an ATM is we never check for tampering. Usually, for a fraudster or a skimmer to commit a card skimming requires attaching additional hardware that can copy the card credentials.

Such things happen in ATMs that are lonely and far away from busy streets where skimmers can easily attach hardware without others noticing. So, it is better to be a little extra cautious with all the cash dispensers where you insert your credit or debit cards.

Card Skimming
Image reference: dfi.wa.gov

Start with twisting and wiggling the card inserter and check if it loosens out. If there is a skimming device, you can find it easily removable with a smooth pull. However, this is not the only thing you have to look for.

Always keep an eye on the keyboard and check for tampering if there is a masked keyboard placed right upon the regular ATM keyboard. You can check by trying to pick up the keyboard, and if it lifts, it’s better not to make any clicks on that machine.

2. Get an EMV Card

Skimmer devices are an old-school technique, and most of these have only one thing to do, copy the magnetic stripe data from the back of your credit card. 

To tackle this, the banks have come up with EMV chips as a replacement for magnetic stripes to make much more secure transactions. When you insert your EMV credit or debit card, a virtual and temporary number is generated for each transaction. So, even when the EMV chip is copied, the skimmers only get a bunch of useless virtual data.

Though these EMV chips are secure, it is a tough call to say if they cannot be compromised. Skimmers always find a way to get through secure doors, but in this case, they will have to try a little harder. Until then, you are a step forward.

Contact your bank and ask them to replace your credit and debit cards with the ones enabled with EMV chips, or ask them for virtual credit card numbers. You can also ditch the physical cards and use online payment systems such as PayPal or Google Pay but be cautious; skimmers have a home there too.

3. Always Cover the Keyboard with your Hand

Most people don’t notice, but credit card skimmers always replace a part of the ATM machine from where a direct view of the keyboard is available. The replaced part of the ATM machine looks isn’t any different in terms of size, shape, color, or other factors but has only a tiny little extra thing added; a camera.

This camera gives a direct view of the keyboard and helps skimmers steal your pin number. Obviously, only copying the magnetic stripe is never enough; you need to validate the transaction using a pin number that is noted with this technique. 

Credit Card Skimmers
Image reference: dfi.wa.gov

To avoid this, always use your other hand to cover the keyboard while you are entering your card’s pin number. Of course, if there is a keylogger, you cannot help, but if the skimmer uses a camera rather than a keylogger, you are still safe.

There is no full-proof way to avoid keylogging; instead, you can take some preventions such as frequently changing your secure pin and alerting OTP options for every transaction through your bank. 

4. Investigate the Keypads

One of the other ways to not fall for keylogging is always to check for the keypads for tampering. Usually, skimmers use their own keypads attached to a small microcontroller which can work as a program to key log your secure pin numbers. 

These keypads are placed upon the real keypad in such a way that all the keys match onto the original keypad for the machine to not be as suspicious while the tiny circuits map and send these numbers to the skimmers.

Start by checking the corners of the keypad and check if you are able to lift the keypad. Compromised ATMs usually have such keypads, and you should avoid using them to tackle the card skimmers.

5. Never Use ATMs From Suspicious Locations

If you look at most credit card skimming, a lot of tampering is involved where the skimmers either add additional hardware or corrupt the existing ones. However, to do this, the ATMs or cash dispensers have to be in an isolated area where the skimmers can do their jobs unnoticed.

How to know credit card skimmers

So, it is obvious that cash dispensers from isolated areas are a big no as they might be compromised and leave your card skimmed. On the other hand, this does not mean the ATMs on busy streets are any less compromised; there is still a chance, but these chances are lesser when compared to the ones from suspicious locations. 

6. Always Pick Indoor ATMs Over Outdoor Ones

Outdoor ATMs are much accessible to skimmers, making them an easy target to get your card skimmed. The chances are skimmers go unnoticed as they might pose as a person who is trying to dispense cash while, in actuality, they are planting their own device.

This can be true with indoor ATMs too, but here, indoor ATMs come with several advantages. For instance, there are clear and multiple visible cameras on the ATM machines with security personnel on a regular check. You can also make sure that no one else is beside you while you are dispensing cash or entering your security details.

Indoor ATMs are less likely to have tampered with, but again, these are not fully secure; they are an option but not completely reliable. In such a case, it is best to enable the OTPs and other 2FAs on every transaction to be on the safer side.

7. Prefer Paying in Cash at Gas Stations

Gas stations are one of the prime hubs for the skimmers to scam you, and this is because the ATMs are accessible to anyone. In fact, skimmers easily go notice with all the tampering at the gas stations as no one is really worried about it.

Of course, now the gas stations have come up with a green label/sticker at various parts of the ATMs where there is a possible chance of tampering. For instance, the keypads or the card inserter, and even at the back of the handy POS systems. 

If you find any tampering on these stickers, it is good to avoid using your card and pay in cash or gift cards instead. They are still a better and safer option.

8. Enable Card Alerts – Always

Card alerts are one of the best things you can do to know if your card has been skimmed. Even the smallest of unknown deductions is a great hint to skimming, and you can make a note of these in your credit statement too. 

Credit Card Skimming

However, checking these unknown deductions on your credit statements can be a late effort, and you might end up losing all from your bank account. To tackle this, you can always enable card alerts for each transaction so you can report your credit or debit card as soon as you find an unknown deduction and save the rest of your money.

Banks do charge a minimal amount for these SMS alerts, and these are usually quarterly, half-yearly, or yearly charges based on your bank. In our opinion, this minimal charge depends on the number of messages sent and is totally justifiable as it always helps you track your transactions.

9. Virtual Cards to a Go

Virtual cards are one of the best options when it comes to secure transactions, and with web 3.0, these will be much more secure. Unlike physical credit or debit cards, there is no permanent number on your credit card, and it changes with each transaction. 

Moreover, there are multiple security options enabled along with it, such as an OTP or 2FA, and there is a lesser chance of getting skimmed. However, this works for online purchases only, and you cannot dispense physical cash with such cards.

You can save virtual cards on your smartphones with apps like Apple Wallet but ensure, no matter which device you are using, it is protected with antimalware and antivirus to keep it all secure.

10. Pay with Gift Cards – The Best Way to Tackle Credit Card Skimming

Credit and debit cards come with all sorts of hassle and charges, and the best to avoid issues like credit and debit card skimming is to avoid using them at all for your regular and everyday purchases.

Our go-to option for everyday purchases is gift cards, and it is one of the best ways as most of the gift cards have no expiry or validity period. From making fresh grocery purchases to doing small errands, gift cards come in handy. So, next time ask your kin to gift you gift cards instead of other kinds of gifts.

Moreover, there are a lot of options in gift cards ranging from Amazon, Roblox, Visa, MasterCard, and other local and branded merchants. Besides, gift cards also aid you in budget-saving and help you to stay away from unnecessary purchases. 

E-Skimmers – The New Way Skimmers Fraud with Your Credit Card

Since banks got smarter with digital purchase options for their customers, skimmers updated themselves too. E-skimming is when skimmers compromise payment pages from merchants or compromise the entire platform by using malicious codes.

Now, this is not like phishing, where the entire page is duplicated; instead, they tamper it with malicious code, and users end up sending all the money to skimmers. 

Card Skimming

Although there are not many instances when the merchants realize the compromise, you can still be on your toes by using reliable security software on your digital devices. 

Such security software detects the malicious code on payment pages and stops you from making such payments and compromises. 

Can you Dispute Skimmed Card Entries on your Credit Report?

If you are a victim of card skimming, it is best to report the banks as soon as possible to ensure they do not charge you for this. While reporting to the bank, you will have to provide all the information and inquiries for them to take action against this skimming act.

However, if you do not report this entry and your credit score is hurt, you can always dispute them as a negative entry. Any entry on your credit report which is not made by you can be reported, and you can remove these entries by disputing.

Nevertheless, the process is long and tiring, and you will have to attach credible proofs along with the dispute letter to make a strong hand in removing these card-skimming entries from your credit report.

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Such negative entries, when proved wrong on credit reports, also help creditors make a positive decision while checking the scores, as credit card skimming and fraud are much more common. 

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Conclusion | Avoid Credit Card Skimming Fraud Smartly

Credit card skimming is an age-old technique, but you can always deal with it smartly. With the above tips, you can always be smarty-pants and avoid letting yourself skimmed; moreover, you can also use gift cards as an alternative option and be on the safer block.

If this article on how to avoid credit card skimming has helped you in any way possible, do spread the word about it by sharing it with your friends, family, and social media.


Hi, this is Ashutosh - I am the creator of the "Space Shuttle Strategy" and most credit repair guides on this website. I love talking about finance, credit repair, and business tools, and I share my ideas through guided and helpful articles which can help you make a difference. Some people also call me Jr. Nikola Tesla, as I love creating new ideas and bringing change, and my ideas do stick.

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