Shopping at some of your favorite stores may cost you more than what you bargained for.
Next time you use the self-checkout lane at a store, be sure to take a second look at the machine you use to swipe your credit or debit card. Scammers are installing "skimmers," devices that collect the data from credit, debit or ATM cards, on these machines.
How the Scam Works:
You are checking out at the supermarket or another large store, and you decide to use the self-checkout lane. You ring up your purchases and swipe your credit or debit card to pay the bill. You may not notice anything strange about the card processor, but scammers have attached a skimmer to some registers. These devices "skim" your card's information off the magnetic strip.
Skimmers are most commonly installed on ATM card readers. But in the past few months, several big box stores have found them attached to the payment processors in self-checkout aisles. Be careful when using these lanes and follow the advice below for spotting a skimmer.
Protect Yourself from a Skimmer:
- Pay with a credit card or cash: You aren't liable for fraudulent charges on your credit card (but be sure to report them to your bank). But if scammers gain your debit card info, they may be able to drain your account.
- Protect your PIN. Place your hand or a piece of paper over the keypad when entering your number. Some scammers set up a video camera nearby to record customers entering their PINs.
- Look for signs of skimmers. Tape is often used to attach the skimming devices; if something looks odd, wiggle it to make sure it doesn't come loose.
- Use chip readers when available: The new credit/debit card processors -- which require you to "dip" a chip card instead of swipe the magnetic stripe -- are more secure. Check to see that your credit and debit cards have them, and use them whenever possible.
- Be wary of strange signs. Some con artists attach signs to ATMs or card processors providing alternate instructions, such as telling users to swipe their card on a separate reader first. If something looks out of place, find a different machine and report it to the store manager or the police.
For More Information
Read more about the scam on Krebs on Security, a blog about computer security run by former Washington Post reporter Brian Krebs.
To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).