You’re on a vacation or out-of-town business trip. You’re careful to prevent others from watching you use your credit or debit card. But when you get home, you find your card has been compromised. What happened?

The answer may be “skimming,” a method used by thieves to steal your card information and personal identification number (PIN). Skimmers are small devices retrofitted to a legitimate credit or debit card reader.

Skimming occurs most frequently at retail outlets like restaurants and gas stations or at ATMs. Criminals then use your stolen information to make purchases or withdraw cash. Because your physical card is never lost or stolen, the theft often goes undetected until a statement or overdraft notice arrives.

How to prevent skimming

While police and businesses are catching more skimmers in the act, advances in Bluetooth technology are making it easy for criminals to walk up to devices and transfer data in seconds without having to remove the devices.

Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself. Here are three ways to help prevent skimming.

  • Know what a credit card skimmer looks like. Brian Krebs, one of the world’s foremost experts on the topic, offers pictures of credit card skimmers, which are becoming smaller and smaller.

  • Before using an ATM or card reader, make sure there aren’t any devices attached to it. At ATMs, skimmers often place a camera within view of the keypad to steal your PIN. Or, they place a fake keypad on top of the real one to record your keystrokes. Bottom line is that everything should feel sturdy, as payment devices are designed to not break easily.

  • When using an ATM, cover your hand as you type your PIN. This will help keep a camera from catching a view of what you’re typing.

Of course, there’s no foolproof way to avoid identity theft. That’s why it’s worth considering ERIE’s Identity Recovery Coverage.

Covered costs include lost wages, costs of supervising children or elderly relatives while you sort things out, certain legal fees, fees for refilling applications and more. The coverage also provides the services of an identity recovery case manager.

To learn more and get a free quote, contact an insurance professional like an Erie Insurance Agent in your community.


Suzanne Gwinn also contributed to this article.