Police Reveal How to Avoid "Nearly Undetectable" Card Skimmers at ATMs

Thieves are targeting gas pumps and ATMs in additional to popular retailers like Walmart.

In a few more years, dollar bills will be a thing of the past, according to Pew Research Center, which says that more and more Americans are transitioning to the "cashless" lifestyle. A 2022 study conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank found that roughly 41 percent of Americans don't use cash on typical weekly purchases. In fact, 54 percent of participants under the age of 50 said they don't worry about carrying cash on them at all.

RELATED: 5 Times You Shouldn't Use an ATM, According to Finance Experts.

Debit and credit cards rank high on the totem pole of popularity and for good reason—they're lighter on the wallet and make paying easier and faster. However, there can be a dark side to using debit and credit cards, too. In addition to the potential for overspending, there's also the danger of "card skimming." This crime involves scammers tampering with checkout kiosks and registers to steal personal information straight from your card, and it's steadily on the rise.

For months now, Walmart has been a frequent target of card skimmers. But police officials are now warning civilians of additional places to be extra cautious, including gas pumps and ATMs.

"Criminals have now figured out ways to install credit card skimmers inside gas station pumps and ATMs, making them nearly undetectable to the public," Aurora police told NBC-affiliate 9News-Denver.

RELATED: Police Warn About Razor Blades at Gas Stations: "Inspect Pump Handle Before Grabbing."

Police say you can spot a card skimmer by checking the top of a card reader or keypad for tampering. If it looks loose or has scratches or "bulging," it may have a skimmer attached, in which case you shouldn't insert your card. Unfortunately, criminals have also gotten savvier, which is why police suggest alternative methods of protection.

Paying with cash, especially for smaller purchases, is sometimes your best and safest option, they say. If you are going to pay with a card, police advise using a credit card over a debit card, because fraudulent charges are easier to track and refute with a credit company than your bank.

Police also suggest linking your cards to Apple Pay, so you can utilize the Tap & Go pay method and avoid card readers entirely. If you use a debit card frequently, police say you should keep your checking account balance low, so thieves can't steal large amounts of money at a time.

In some cases, thieves also attach pinhole cameras to capture PIN numbers. So the next time you go to enter your PIN, police advise that you also use your hand as a shield to prevent your PIN from being recorded by a hidden camera.

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Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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