Stay Safe from Credit Card Skimmers

It seems like *literally* everyone (and their mom) is in the full swing of summer travel. Be it planes, trains, or automobiles, people have left home and are enjoying a season full of adventure and exploration. Thankfully, we’re far from the days of clunky travelers cheques and complicated currency acrobatics, but that doesn’t mean we can let our guards down completely when making purchases on the road.

You might have heard about credit card skimmers and how people have grown more susceptible to their personal and sensitive data being stolen from hackers. Unfortunately, they can often be hard to detect and reports of their use is on the rise. As a result, more than a few travelers are dealing with unexpected headaches, whether they’re traveling at home or abroad.

So, what is a credit card skimmer? A credit card skimmer is a device added to a card reader to steal your card number and PIN. There are a few different types of skimmers, but most are installed directly within the card reader and can be pretty difficult to detect.

However, there are things you can do to prevent your sensitive information being stolen from credit card skimmers. Read on for the top five tips and be sure to share it with your friends and family!

1. Check the card reader for damage

Before you get your card out and prepare to make payment, take a look at the card reader. If there are any obvious signs that it’s been damaged or tampered with, don’t use it! Damage could be an indicator that someone has added a skimmer to the card reader. In particular, be on the lookout for readers that seem loose or are larger than usual, which can indicate that a card skimmer has been added.

2. Opt for contactless payment methods

There are ways to add extra layers of protection when making a digital payment. If you can, use a card that has a contactless payment option, or you could even use a digital wallet like Apple Pay. This will allow you to skip the insertion of your card and avoid any skimmers in the reader. What’s more, when you use contactless payment, your sensitive information is encrypted, making it even more difficult for someone to steal.

3. Pay inside or use an indoor ATM

If you’re at a gas station or making a similar style of “pit stop,” it often feels inconvenient to go inside to pay or use an ATM. However, card readers that are located inside a store are typically better protected than card readers outside. Taking a few extra minutes is a small price to pay to keep your information safe from credit card skimmers.

4. Use a credit card with a chip

Pro tip: A credit card with a chip is harder to skim than one with just a magnetic stripe, so use a chip card when you can. Keep in mind that using a credit card is more beneficial than a debit card in these situations. Since card skimmers can access (and steal) PIN codes as well as the card numbers themselves, a debit card is even more vulnerable.

Additionally, in the case your account is compromised, your money is safer with a credit card than a debit card. If you have any questions or concerns, contact your bank directly before traveling for more information and steps to take in case of an incident.

5. Check your bank account regularly

It’s a best practice to check your bank account on a regular basis. This helps you keep track of purchases and detect any usual activity right away. Time is of the essence in the case of any potential fraud or strange activity. You’ll need to contact your bank right away to file the proper reports, cancel the card (if necessary), and receive a new card.

When you’re traveling, be sure to have more than one payment option available. In the unfortunate event that one of your cards is compromised – due to a card skimmer or otherwise – you’ll need to have an alternate way to access your money in the meantime.


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