Thieves Target Shoppers Who Use Supermarket Self-Checkout

Scammers with skimmers who have traditionally targeted ATMs and gas station payment terminals are shifting their focus.

Scammers with skimmers who have traditionally targeted ATMs and gas station payment terminals are shifting their focus.

They’re now targeting the payment terminals at supermarket self-checkout lines, CBS MoneyWatch reports.

The publication explains how skimmers enable thieves to steal financial data that is then used to replicate debit and credit cards:

The devices are hidden electronics that sit inside or over a card slot. When consumers swipe their cards, the skimmers scan the information and steal the data. Fake keypads or small cameras then record the customers punching in their PIN.

Terminals at self-checkout lines share remoteness in common with ATMs and gas station terminals, as they are generally unattended by a cashier or other employee. That remoteness provides criminals the opportunity to install their devices with less chance of being noticed.

The cyber-security blog Krebs on Security — which recently published a photo of a skimming device that was removed from a Safeway supermarket in Maryland — notes:

The device could be attached in the blink of an eye (and removed quickly as well).

One way to avoid being defrauded by a scammer’s skimmer is to pay with a so-called “chipped” debit or credit card. These cards have a small computer chip (sometimes called an “EMV” chip for “Eurocard, MasterCard, Visa”) embedded in the front.

Instead of horizontally or vertically swiping the magnetic strip that’s on the back, you “dip” the side of the card by inserting it face-up into a slot, then leaving it there for a while.

As we explain in “What You Need to Know About Your New ‘Chipped’ Credit Cards,” dipping is safer because each time you use a chipped card, it creates a unique, single-use code. So even if thieves figure out how to copy the code, it won’t do them any good, because the code can’t be re-used.

But not all retailers have switched over to terminals that accept chipped cards.

If you have a chipped card but find yourself at a terminal that is not enabled for “dipping,” try tugging at the face of the terminal. While this tip is not fail-safe, a loose terminal is considered a possible sign of a skimmer.

If you don’t have a chipped card or are otherwise in the market for a new or better credit card, visit the Money Talks News Solutions Center, where you’ll get help finding the perfect credit card and tackling other financial issues.

What steps do you take to avoid skimmers? Sound off in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.

Stacy Johnson

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