Spot the Scam: Debit Card Scams


HOST, JORDAN MURPHY: We use them every day for any number of purchases, but just when we think we’re safe, scammers are creating new ways to steal our debit card and bank information. These– they’re a lot more vulnerable than you might think. But today, we’re going to show you how to spot the scam.

This is an ATM card skimmer. It’s a card reading device that will allow a scammer to steal your information when you’re just stopping by to get some cash. To learn more about how this scam works, I spoke with financial crimes detective, Paul Granados, from the Pasadena police department.

PAUL GRANADOS: It fits over the front of the machine and then as you pass your card through, you’ll be able to finish your transaction not knowing that your card number has just been stolen. The second piece of information that scammers need is going to be your pin number. There’s a little tiny hole, right here. Behind that hole is a pin camera. The pin camera will capture you inputting your pin number, store it on the memory card, it will be accessed later. With these devices in place for usually not more than a few days, the scammers will come back and they’ll physically remove these items. And they will download this information onto a laptop computer and they will make their own legitimate card.

JORDAN MURPHY: Got it.

PAUL GRANADOS: If you’ve ever had your bank call you and ask you about unusual activity on your account and you know it wasn’t you, you’ve been a victim of this.

JORDAN MURPHY: So how can you protect yourself from being scammed? Here are a few key points to remember. When you’re at the ATM, make sure the card reader looks legit. Does it jiggle when you shake it? Or at a gas pump. Does it look like the readers at the other gas pumps? If not, it might be a skimmer.

Next, always use your credit card instead of your debit card, especially at a gas station or a restaurant. Debit cards don’t have the same protection that credit cards do and you may be liable for some or all of the fraudulent charges. When you’re at the ATM, protect your pin. And your best defense? Right here. Just cover your hand as you type it in.

Also keep your card in sight at all times. Store clerks and waiters can skim your card by running it through a handheld skimmer and you’d never even know it. Finally, monitor your credit card and bank accounts at least once a week. The quicker you spot report fraud, the less money you’ll lose.

Thanks for watching. I’m Jordan Murphy, here to help you spot the scam, so you can stop the scam. Stay up-to-date on the latest scams and get free tools to protect yourself and your family at the AARP Fraud Watch Network.