Protect yourself from shimming

It’s that time of year where many people are traveling or just out enjoying the spring air, which usually translates to extra trips to the gas pump. Most of us pull up, jump out and put our card in the reader without even thinking twice, but is that reader safe or could that quick insert cost you?

Skimming occurs when scammers insert a device into ATMs or other terminals, harvesting your payment information as you swipe your credit or debit card. Scammers succeeded with this tactic for a while, but skimmers don’t work for cards with newer chip technology.

Better Business Bureau has found that with technology advancing, scammers are coming up with new ways to get your money or information. Con artists’ new way to steal payment information is called “shimming.” Scammers insert a shim — a paper-thin, card-sized device with an embedded microchip and flash storage — into the slot where you enter the chip side of your credit or debit card.

When you insert your card at a gas pump, ATM or another card reader, it copies and saves your payment information. Then, scammers return with a special card that collects the stolen information, such as your PIN and card number. They use this information to make purchases with your account information.

According to the National Association for Convenience Stores, over 29 million customers pay for fuel with a credit or debit card. When shimming occurs at a gas station, it usually takes place at only one pump. A single compromised pump can capture data from 30 to 100 cards per day.

So how do we prevent being a victim of this scam? Those at credit cards.com say some gas station credit card skimming victims have, in hindsight, remembered that the card reader had “a weird feeling like the slot had been tampered with.” The Better Business Bureau suggests if the reader seems to have a tighter than normal grip on your card, there could be a shim inside. You may want to cancel your transaction and notify the business.

Also, if possible try using tap and go features on your credit card instead of inserting your card. It’s also best to pay with a credit card, as it’s easier to dispute fraudulent charges.

Read more about credit card scams at BBB.org/ScamTips.

If you’ve fallen victim to this type of scam, help others avoid being scammed by filing a report with BBB.org/ScamTracker. Learn more about specific kinds of scams and how to avoid them at BBB.org/Scam Tips.

Jeremy Johnson is the eastern Idaho marketplace manager for Better Business Bureau, serving the Northwest and Pacific. Contact her at by emailing jeremy.johnson@thebbb.org.


Jeremy Johnson is the eastern Idaho marketplace manager for Better Business Bureau, serving the Northwest and Pacific. Contact her at by emailing jeremy.johnson@thebbb.org.


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