Be on the Lookout for Credit Card Skimmers

by Safety Connection

November 28, 2023

Do you remember the gas station skimming incidents that occurred in Madison in 2016? They prompted the Madison Common Council to pass a new ordinance that took effect January 1, 2017 and required all gas station pumps in Madison to have a “unique locking device” to help protect consumers from credit card fraud.

A banking expert recently told us that incidents of credit card skimming have increased noticeably again in Wisconsin and also other states like Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.

In Wisconsin recent incidents have been reported in the Fox Valley, Green Bay and Racine as well as in Monona. In fact a local law enforcement agency in Dane County was recently skimmed at a gas pump in the Madison area.

Credit card skimming is an electronic method of stealing your credit card information. Thieves tamper with card readers, and their handiwork may be difficult to spot.

Here is some information released last week from Madison Area Crime Stoppers that can help you avoid being the next victim.

Madison Area Crime Stoppers Alert about Credit Card Skimmers:

Thieves put devices in payment scanners at gas pumps, in card readers at store checkout lanes and even in ATMs. These devices can be very hard to detect, and newer skimmers allow thieves to receive the stolen data wirelessly, so they don’t need to come back to the scene of the crime.

So how can you protect yourself?

  • Jiggle the card reader. If it’s loose or looks offset, don’t use it and instead report it to a store employee.
  • Pay special attention at self-checkout areas where the card readers are often left unattended and are more vulnerable to tampering.
  • If you’re unsure about the card reader, pay inside at a gas station or get money directly from a bank teller instead of an ATM.
  • Consider using Apple or Google Pay which generates a unique code each time you pay so your credit card information is never at risk.

Finally, the Secret Service reports that tap-to-pay is currently the safest payment option, but be aware that some thieves are drilling holes in contactless payment screens to force consumers to use their skimmers via a card swipe/insert method instead. If you see a hole in a tap-to-pay screen, don’t use the scanner. Report it to a store employee immediately.

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