If you've ever had your debit or credit card number stolen — and I have... it's brutal — you know how important it is to check ATMs, gas pumps, or anywhere you might swipe a card to make sure there isn't a skimmer on it waiting to steal your payment info.

Skimmers are little electronic devices that capture the card information when you swipe and then relay that information to a third party, usually via Bluetooth.

They're commonly planted on gas pumps and ATMs, sometimes capturing hundreds of card numbers before they're ever discovered. Then criminals put those numbers onto magnetic stripe cards to make cash withdrawals or simply order stuff online.

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For years, authorities have always recommended that before inserting your card into any kind of machine, you tug on the little lip where you insert your card. Often, the device is stuck on over the top, and if it comes off in your hand, you found one. If it doesn't, odds are the machine is safe to use, right?

Not anymore.

Card number pirates have devised new ways to get that card number from you, whether a credit card at the gas pump or a debit card at the ATM.


Invisible Card Skimmers in Colorado

Police in Aurora, Colorado, are warning of a new skimmer they've discovered that is undetectable to anyone using the machine because they're not installed on top of — but INSIDE — the card slots of gas pumps and ATMs. In some cases, authorities suspect that thieves are getting a hold of keys to open up the machine and plant them in there without anyone knowing.

They also say that sometimes, at machines where you can tap to pay, there may be a little hole drilled in that reader to disable it, thereby instinctively forcing the user to just insert their card into the old-school slot without thinking about it.

Even further, sometimes there are little pinhole cameras drilled into the machines as well, pointed at the keypad. Think about the last time you got cash out of an ATM — did you cover your hand while you entered your PIN? You may want to in the future!

How to Keep Your Credit Card Safe at the Pump and ATM

Here are some tips and tricks for keeping your card numbers safe as all this new technology is being discovered all over Colorado as we prepare to wrap up 2023:

  • If you're going to use a card at any machine, use a credit card, never a debit card. If your debit card number is stolen, they'll clean you out quickly. And it takes time to get that money back, whereas a credit card company can shut you down before things get crazy, and you can file a fraud report instantly, oftentimes without having to pay for anything stolen.
  • Always cover the keypad of any machine where you're entering a PIN to avoid being seen by cameras.
  • Use Apple Pay or Google with your phone. These are by far the most secure ways to pay.
  • The best, most effective suggestion I have? Have a second checking account, and simply transfer money into it for ATM withdrawals on your bank's mobile app. That way, if the number is compromised, there's not much in there for them to steal. That's what I do, and it's been my best failsafe yet.

Don't forget, checks, too, are a target this holiday season.

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