Invisible Thieves

Last week I wrote about scams targeted at seniors.  In keeping with the same theme I want to talk about skimmers and shimmers at gas stations and ATM’s.  This is for anyone who uses a credit card or debit card.  We need to be vigilant.

Skimmers and shimmers.  These are terms used to describe the devices being used to steal your money.  Thieves place these devices in ATM’s and gas stations pumps.  Skimmers are easier to identify than shimmers.

Skimmers are basically an overlay on the original card reader.  The shimmer is inserted into the original card reader therefore making it invisible to users of the machine.  However if a card sticks or doesn’t insert with some effort it may be a sign of a shimmer being installed.

So how do you avoid falling victim to these criminals?

  1. Before inserting your card in an ATM or gas pumps, see if the reader is loose or if it wiggles. If it’s loose and it wiggles, do not use your card.  Instead, tell the gas station attendant.  If you’re withdrawing from an ATM, go in the bank and inform them.  The device they installed is called a skimmer and that is how they steal everything they need to clear your bank account.
  2. If you use your debit card at the pump, use the credit card function instead of the PIN option. When using it as a credit card you will be asked to enter your zip code instead of your PIN.  Bypassing the PIN will prevent thieves from getting it and emptying your bank account.
  3. If you see a seal on a gas pump cabinet that has been broken, that is another good sign of a device being installed.
  4. Thieves are getting more and more savvy by using Bluetooth technology. With your smartphone, go to your Bluetooth setting.  If you see a network with a long string of numbers trying to connect, do not use that machine.  Chances are good that a shimmer has been installed.  These are not visible because they are installed in the card reader.
  5. Apple Pay, Samsung, or Android Pay are payment options (apps) that can be used with smartphone technology. If the machine you’re using has this payment option use it.  It is most secure since each transaction generates a one-time random code to identify your credit card number.  By using this payment method your credit card number is never used.

Below are a few images of skimmers and shimmers that have been removed from ATM’s and gas pumps.  The two images of the skimmers illustrate how a skimmer would appear on a card reader.  It sticks out more than the reader without the skimmer.

For more information see the following links.

  • An in-depth article in can be found by clicking here.
  • The Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller, made a video about this problem and can be viewed on the Dallas-Ft. Worth NBC affiliate by clicking here.
  • And our good friends to the north, CBC/Radio-Canada, wrote a good article about shimmers. That can be ready by clicking here.

Skimmer on gas pump. Visible.

DSM Skimmer

Skimmer on gas pump or ATM. Visible


Shimmer. Invisible

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s