How Does Credit Card Skimming Work?

Skimming, whether on a handheld device or on a point-of-sale device (like a credit card machine at the checkout line), involves the theft of your credit or debit card information while being used during an otherwise legitimate purchase or transaction.

How Does ATM/Handheld Skimmers Theft Occur?

Skimmers are small electronic devices that can be placed over the card slot of an ATM or handheld credit card device, like those used by waiters. Using a skimmer, a thief can collect your card number and information for later use, simply by having you swipe your card as you normally would. Everything appears normal, but your personal information has just been stolen.

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What Is the Cost of ATM/Handheld Skimmers Theft?

With over 400,000 ATM’s located throughout the United States, ATM skimming theft costs U.S. banks as much as $1 billion in annual losses – and the problem is rising. From 2008 to 2010, the number of cases reported to the Secret Service grew by 10% a year.1 Combining both ATM and credit card skimming, the US Secret Service estimates the annual cost to consumers and businesses is $8 billion.2

Information thieves can collect:

  • Bank or credit card account
  • Personal name
  • PINs

What thieves can do with this information:

  • Identity theft
  • Bank fraud

ATM/Handheld Skimmers Statistics:

  • Over 400,000 ATM’s located in
    the U.S.1
  • ATM skimming costs U.S. banks
    almost $1 billion annually.1
  • Cases reported to the Secret
    Service has grown 10% for the
    past 3 years.1
  • Total annual loss of ATM and
    credit card skimming is $8 billion.2

Editorial Disclosure:
This article is designed to educate readers. That means that while LifeLock, which sells identity theft protection services, produced the article, the point is NOT to encourage you to buy LifeLock's products. The point is to inform and educate so that you are empowered to make sound decisions, whether you buy from us, a competitor, or not at all.



Federal Trade Commission. “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book For
January – December 2011.” February 2012.

Javelin Strategy & Research. "2012 Identity Fraud Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming
the New Fraud Frontier." February 2012.

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