There is a whole new generation of credit card skimmers in stores and gas stations, and they’re surprisingly good.
Thieves modify public ATMs to steal bank card and credit card information by adding ever-more sophisticated card skimmers and hidden cameras to record when we enter our security PINs. This makes identity theft a $16 billion a year industry in USA, Canada, and Mexico.
But now there’s a new free Android smartphone app that allows us to detect many of the ways an ATM or gas pump scanner might have been hacked. The app is called Skimmer Scanner. Again, it’s not available (yet) for Apple smartphones iPhone. The app is for all the others, like Samsung.
What the Skimmer Scanner does is search for any Bluetooth modules near an ATM or gas pump. That’s because credit card skimmers typically use Bluetooth as the method of transmitting stolen bank and identity information.
ZDNet explains that the thief’s skimmer transmits personal financial data to a Bluetooth module that saves the information until the thief returns to collect it. Once the skimmer is installed, the thief never has to physically touch the skimmer set-up. They can just sit in a nearby car, or stand beside the gas pump, casually downloading users’ personal credit and bank card information.
For people without the app, here are a few hints to avoid having their information stolen.
Above, the one on the left is the fake because it is larger (taller and wider) than the one on the right. That’s because the one on the left is a cover that has to fit over the real one.
All legitimate ATMs have at least one LED light showing. In fact, they usually have a whole row of lights. The one above has none, so it’s a cover.
The thieves got a little smarter on the one above, and built a transparent cover for the lights. But that’s a give-away, too. The LED lights must be uncovered to be legitimate.
Lastly, the best pieces of advice are:
- to always cover a free hand over the hand that’s entering a PIN number.
- never accept help from a stranger at an ATM.
- to use only ATMs at a bank’s physical location, if possible.