Credit card skimming on the rise in Florida and new danger arises: Shimming

'Shimming' is similar to 'skimming,' and will become more popular for thieves in 2019, an FBI...
'Shimming' is similar to 'skimming,' and will become more popular for thieves in 2019, an FBI official says.(Source: NBC12)
Updated: Mar. 6, 2019 at 2:03 PM EST
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SARASOTA (WWSB/WIS) - More than 1,200 credit card skimmers were removed from Florida gas stations over the past year, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The use of the illegal devices, which collect consumers' credit or debit card information, has increased dramatically in recent years. If undetected, each skimmer is capable of collecting data from hundreds of consumers while stealing millions of dollars.

Now Florida is looking to toughen the penalties for those caught installing the devices.

With skimmers, an almost undetectable cover is placed over card slots and scans your information. Your card will then be able to be accessed by any of the scammers with your card information. Places like gas stations and ATMs are reported as the highest risk spots.

During a news conference at a gas station in Tallahassee Wednesday, Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried said she's been personally impacted by the issue, which started in South Florida but has spread statewide.

"I have had my credit cards shut down three times because of something like this down in South Florida," said Fried. "There are rings of these criminals around the state. This is actually an ongoing investigation, trying to crack down on the actual rings themselves. Sometimes, it's not just individuals, but they are all involved in other organized crime."

Bills filed for the 2019 legislative session, which began this week, are looking to toughen penalties for those caught stealing credit card data.

There's also a new danger on the rise: shimming. Shimming is a relatively new way for scammers to steal your information. A small, paper-thin device is inserted into a credit-card chip reader, so that when your card is inserted, it reads the data on your card and stores it for their use.

The information from the chip on your card can’t be used to clone another chip card, but they can create a version of your card with a magnetic strip and use it at stores that accept them - especially online retailers.

Shimming will become more popular for thieves in 2019, according to Supervisory Special Agent Mark Knoll with the Richmond FBI, because it’s hard to detect.

The U.S. Secret Service estimates $1 billion are stolen every year by criminals using card skimmers - that’s 350,000 a day. Shimming is even more high-tech and will only add to that total.

How to protect yourself against credit card skimmers:

First, keep your pin safe. Cover it with your hand, don’t share it with anyone, and don’t have it written down - you never know who’s hands it could get into.

Secondly, check the machine. Try wiggling parts of the ATM or gas station slot, legitimate ATM machines are solid constructions that don’t usually have loose or moving parts and you might be able to discover the fake cover on it. Also, try to only use indoor machines - these are less likely to be tampered with due to higher security.

How to protect yourself against credit card shimmers:

“Shims” are very difficult to spot and almost impossible for stores to know if they are there - but there are some ways you can protect yourself. First, if you have a “tap and go” option for your card, like Google or Apple Pay, use that when available.

Second, know the signs of an unsafe card reader or ATM. Much like the “skimming," try to stay inside when needing to use the ATM. Also, some experts have said that your card might feel “tight” or meet with some resistance if a shim is placed inside the chip reader. Stop the transaction if possible and immediately alert the store.

As always, pay close attention to your recent transactions and notify your bank of any suspicious activity. The FBI also recommends using credit cards instead of debit cards when paying for items at a card reader due to the increased protections offered consumers through credit cards.

Finally, do not assume your information is safe. The FBI advises you to put security alerts on all your cards, change your passwords regularly and always look over your credit card statements.

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