A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: Think twice before putting your credit card into a card reader; skimmers popping up all over

The next time you stop to fill up the gas tank or pick up a few things at the store using the self-checkout, think twice before putting your card into the credit/debit card reader. Skimmers are popping up everywhere and are becoming more difficult to detect.

Credit card skimming is credit card theft where crooks use a small device to steal credit card information in an otherwise legitimate credit or debit card transaction. When the card is run through a skimmer, the device captures and stores all the details on the card’s magnetic strip.

Thieves use the stolen data to make fraudulent charges either online or with a counterfeit credit card. In the case of ATM and debit cards, thieves withdraw cash from the linked checking account.

Walmart skimmer

Walmart skimmer

Credit card skimmers are placed over the card swipe mechanism on ATMs, self-checkout lanes at stores, and gas pumps. With ATMs, the crooks may place a small, undetectable camera nearby to record patrons entering their PIN. Victims of credit card skimming are often unaware of the theft until they receive a billing statement or overdraft notices in the mail.

Sources at the Hamilton and Butler County Auditor’s offices say they are doing their best to keep up with the number of skimmers that have been discovered at area gas stations. However, the technology is becoming advanced enough to where the skimmers are practically undiscoverable until days later when the sales transaction appears on a consumer’s bank statement.

These devices will often reappear in different locations after auditor staff members complete an inspection sweep because of the ease in which they are built.

Gas station retailers are being asked by the auditor’s office to increase security and watch for anyone tampering with the gas pumps. Additionally, retailers are asked to watch the self checkout lanes closely for devices being placed over the credit/debit card terminals.

Consumers are strongly encouraged to watch for skimmers as well and monitor bank accounts for any fraudulent activity. The auditor’s office recommends using cash or a credit card for transactions instead of a debit card so it is harder for scammers to gain access to valuable bank account information.

When using an ATM, choose one that is in a well-lit, well-populated area and if it’s during banking hours, use the machine inside or go to the teller. When entering the PIN number, cover the touch pad so as to block the view from any hidden cameras.

When stopping at the local gas station, choose the gas pumps located closest to the clerk or the convenience store where you can see the clerk and inspect the pump before inserting your card. According to the auditor’s office, if the gas pump has been inspected, there should be a sticker with the auditor’s name and the date it was approved for use located on the side of the pump. Look closely, if the seal isn’t broken then it is likely that there isn’t a skimmer attached to the credit card terminal.

However, both the Butler and Hamilton County Auditor’s advise people to be cautious. Skimmers have been found inside the credit card reader, meaning that the seal would still be intact and no way for you to know a skimmer is reading your information.

Before putting your card in the slot, give the credit card device a slight, gentle tug to check for any device that might be inserted over it. If the reader is loose or you find a skimmer device covering the credit card terminal, report it immediately to the clerk and law enforcement. Otherwise, avoid being skimmed by paying cash for your gas purchase. Yes, it is a bit inconvenient to carry cash but your bank account and personal information will remain safe.

Find more cybersecurity tips on bbb.org/cybersecurity. If you’re a victim of identity theft, visit identitytheft.gov for a

Report all scams to BBB’s Scam Tracker.


Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Tune in Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. with Scott Sloan on 700WLW for The Scam of the Week and every third Thursday with Brian Thomas on 55KRC. Contact Sandra at (513) 639-9126 or sguile@cincinnati.bbb.org. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. To reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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