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The war on card skimming is on – here’s how to stay safe and avoid handing your information over to cash-stealing criminals….

We’re living in a time where making purchases with real-life money is reaching extinction. The vast majority of us are getting more and more familiar with using our debit and credit cards to make even small purchases, rather than having to visit an ATM.

As with most technology – there’s a downside which threatens your safety. Card skimming has become such a huge problem in the UK alone that banks and police forces are working together in a panicked bid to stamp it out.

What is a card skimmer?

Essentially, criminals insert a portable “cloning device” in any machine which accepts your credit card. This can be a cash machine, the card slot at the petrol station, or even in the pub or supermarket. Once your card is inserted, the capture device will steal your card information and PIN, which is then used to make purchases with your information.

A card skimmer can sometimes be a fake front on a cash machine or card payment device.

What are the statistics?

According to the British press – around 100,000 people a year fall victim to fraud relating to skimmed or cloned bank cards every year (in the UK alone).

If this doesn’t surprise you, perhaps this will. Fraud losses on UK-issued cards totalled at £567.5 million in 2015 – 20% higher than in 2014.

Not only are payment cards the main types of financial fraud losses, they took up up an entire three quarters of all reported cases in 2015:

(image by Financial Fraud Action) 

How can I spot a card skimmer?

There are a number of warning signs when a card skimmer has been planted.

  • A bulky or wider-than-usual card slot suggests a skimmer device may be in place.
  • The scamming device may not appear flush against the card machine, leaving a gap where the reader doesn’t touch the PIN pad.
  • A loose or blocked card slot may indicate a ‘Lebanese Loop’ (A ‘Lebanese Loop’ is a strip of metal or plastic which traps a bank card in the card slot, allowing thieves to return and retrieve jammed cards when the customer walks away).
  • Police say the scam can sometimes be spotted when the card slot sticks out further than other parts of the machine.
    A loose pin pad – or a pad that is thicker than normal, may be fake.

Jennifer Peterson, 31, fell victim to card skimming and didn’t notice what was going on for 6 months. She said: “I kept going to the cash machine and feeling like I had less money than I should have had, but I never thought in a million years that it could be a card skimmer. I didn’t check my bank statements thoroughly enough, then one day I saw that £44 had gone out to a sports company.

“When I called my bank, it turned out that someone had been kind enough to sign me up to a monthly subscription, and the £44 had been going out every month for 6 months.

She added: “Thankfully my bank was decent with me and I got my money back – but it must be costing them a fortune – this looks like a massive, ongoing problem.”

Click here for more information on how to avoid card skimmers

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Kirsty Rigg is a newspaper journalist and features’ editor who has been contributing to tech-mag since Autumn 2016. She is a keen “techie” and amongst her many talents, she is also a digital marketing officer and specialises in social media management. Kirsty has written for the British nationals and has worked as a staff reporter on several papers in the UK, the Czech Republic and Spain, but now lives back in her hometown of Manchester where she writes exciting content for tech-mag and other publications. Her services may be available for hire on a freelance basis. So long as she is greeted with wine and flattery, her rates are actually pretty good.