Your eyes, fingers and now even your smartphone may be able to help you spot card skimmers at gas pumps and ATMs, but nothing is foolproof.
“Some of the newer skimmers are almost impossible to see, even if you know what you’re looking for,” says David Tente, U.S. executive director of the ATM Industry Association.
See related: Skim Reaper: The death of card skimmers?
Skimmer fraud soaring at ATMs and gas pumps
During 2017, the number of compromised ATMs and point-of-sale devices rose 8 percent, according to data FICO released in March 2018. Meanwhile, the number of compromised cards climbed 10 percent.
That comes on the heels of a 70 percent jump in the number of payment cards compromised U.S. ATMs and merchants in 2016, according to FICO. The number of hacked card readers at U.S. ATMs, restaurants and merchants rose 30 percent in 2016. About 60 percent of those compromises were at nonbank ATMs, such as those in convenience stores.
Experts also note an increase in gas pump skimmers. Florida, for example, tracks the number of skimmers found at gas stations. Florida inspectors are on pace to find card skimmers in about 1,000 gas pumps in 2018, according to the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. That’s up from more than 650 pumps last year and nearly 220 in 2016.
The ATM EMV liability shift was in October 2016 for Mastercard and October 2017 for Visa.
Gas pumps received a three-year extension on EMV transition in 2017, meaning fuel pumps will continue to be a fertile field for fraudsters with skimmers until October 2020. EMV chip technology has reduced fraud at the checkout counter since the EMV liability shift in October 2015.
Until fueling pumps read EMV chip cards, gas stations will be “one of the last bastions” for thieves, says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Magnetic-stripe technology, she says, lacks layers of protection. “If thieves know how to compromise that, that’s where they will go,” she says. “It’s lucrative – people wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t.”
Gas pump skimming: How big a risk is it?
There are no reliable statistics on the extent of skimming, since it is a local crime and not centrally tracked, but experts say it is on the rise.
How big is the risk? According to the National Association for Convenience Stores:
- 37 million Americans refuel every day.
- Of them, 29 million pay for fuel with a credit or debit card.
- When skimming occurs at a gas station, it usually takes place at only one pump.
- A single compromised pump can capture data from 30 to 100 cards per day.