Cybersecurity Awareness: Skimmers and Shimmers

Cybersecurity Awareness
January 17, 2019

Beware of skimmers and shimmers when using a debit or credit card. Card skimmers are readers attached to payment terminals. When your credit or debit card is swiped through a skimmer, the device captures and stores all the details stored in the card’s magnetic stripe. Thieves use the stolen data to either gain access to your account and make fraudulent charges or create a counterfeit credit card.

Shimmers are very, very thin devices and cannot be seen from the outside. When you slide your card in, the shimmer reads the data from the chip on your card, much the same way a skimmer reads the data on your card's magnetic stripe.

Below are a few tips to help protect your personal information from skimmers and shimmers:

  • Before you get cash out of an ATM or pay for your fuel at the pump, make sure you choose wisely. Choose ATM’s inside banks, in high-traffic areas, and grocery stores.  These are generally the safest and are monitored by a camera system.
  • Try and cover the keyboard when entering your pin, this will prevent hidden cameras from capturing your pin.
  • Look for the tamper seal when using fuel pumps and try to select a pump that is closest to the physical building (being close to the cameras can deter skimmer installation). 
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card when you pay. Credit cards usually have zero liability and can reverse charges very quickly. If you use your debit card and it’s compromised, they now have access to the funds in your bank account.
  • If you have the ability to utilize Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Android Pay, you can safely use your phone to pay.  This will eliminate your personal information being exposed and you are generating a virtual credit card number that is useless to criminals. 

Contact Mike Wilson at mikewilson@cwi.edu or 208.562.3193 with questions or for more information, and stay tuned for more tips and information on cybersecurity awareness in future issues of Bert’s Alerts.