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How Criminals Skim the Cream off Card Holders

Still one of the most popular ways to compromise financial data, skimming is a crime of using an electronic reading device (skimmer) to swipe somebody’s credit card information, including their PIN, and then to clone the victim’s card and steal money from their account. Here are the most large-scale skimming cases.

In October 2017, Atef Alkhateeb, a U.S. resident from Jordan, was sentenced to several years in prison for his long-term prolific scheme. Alkhateeb drove around Southern California, surreptitiously installing card-skimming devices and hidden cameras on ATMs to steal customers’ bank account information, including PINs. He would then return to his home office and create duplicate cards. In three years, Alkhateeb stole bank information from 13,000+ cards issued by Wells Fargo and other U.S. banks, causing several millions of dollars in damage.

Criminal groups are behind many skimming schemes. Thus, last year, Abu Dhabi Police arrested four Asian hackers who had stolen more than AED1 million ($270,000) from credit cards using skimmers. It should be noted that criminals accessed some credit card data posted by victims themselves on e-commerce sites.

Such crimes are quite often committed by touring foreign nationals. Thus, at the end of 2017, Indian Police arrested two groups of Romanian nationals who came to India as tourists and stole nearly 6.6 million rupees (some $100,000) from 1,000+ people by installing credit card skimmers.

In addition to ATMs, such criminals often target gas station payment terminals. For example, a group of 12 such fraudsters was neutralized in Colorado for a multi-state gas pump credit card skimming scheme compromising financial data of 8,000+ victims and causing $2.5 million in losses. Moreover, the arrested criminals were also linked to an international money laundering ring.

Bank card holders are advised to follow several simple recommendations. When going to an ATM, carefully check it for cover strips on a keypad and card reader, as well as other suspicious details. When entering your PIN, cover a keypad with your free hand to protect your card information against fraudsters’ video cameras that may be installed nearby. Try to always withdraw money from ATMs located in bank offices or well-protected buildings, because skimming criminals prefer street terminals. And last but not least, try not to use your credit card to pay for services at unknown or suspicious gas stations, cafés, and stores.