Credit cards hold a tremendous amount of data about an individual, with the ability to store up to 60 characters on a magnetic strip, including account numbers and names. So if one were to have that card stolen, it could lead to disastrous results.
But having it stolen might not be the biggest worry, some people are finding.
In some states around the country, credit card skimmers are becoming more and more common. They’re devices that allow thieves to steal the card information and pin numbers of those that use something like an ATM or card insert. They can often go undetected for days until the victim checks their bank accounts.
These devices are small and can be installed in as little as 30 seconds. Often, they sit just above the credit card reader. And they also work very fast.
“The skimmer would push on top of the card reader. They can put it on and go,” said Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Keith Minch.
In the past, these devices were found more often at gas station pumps, but ATM skimmers are far more easy to install, and give thieves quicker access to the victim’s money, said Minch.
“The ATM is quicker because to do a gas pump the suspect is getting your card info and then they clone that to another card. At an ATM they get access to your pin, so they get immediate cash.”
Officials are exercising caution when dealing with ATMs or any machine that requires the use of a credit card or debit card. They encourage people to look close, touch, and listen.
“Touch the machine. If you find anything that moves on the ATM, it’s probably not meant to be there,” said Minch.
The new smart credit cards, those with a computer chip, help combat the use of skimmers, but many still use older cards. These older cards are more prone to falling victim to the scam.