Over the last few months, we have had several reports of credit card skimmers in the area. The most recent incident was spotted by a sharp-eyed citizen. How do you spot a skimmer? It may be a challenge, but there are some signs that you can look for.

An overlay skimmer is one that fits over the card reader and made to look like the part it’s covering. However, it might not be the same quality or color as the rest of the machine and may appear to not quite fit. You can also check for additions to the machine that could hide a camera pointed at the keypad. This is often how criminals steal PIN numbers.

These items can be made to look very realistic and can be difficult to detect. What can you do to try to spot them? Take a second at a gas pump or ATM and look around:

  • Does the terminal you are using look like the other payment terminals in the area? Is the card reader the same color as the readers at the other terminals?
  • Does the credit card slot or PIN pad look loose or out of place? Try tugging at the card reader to feel if it is wiggly or a different size than it should be.
  • Is the flashing light in the reader is not as bright as it should be? Is the area on the bottom right of the card reader dark? These can often appear darker/duller if an overlay skimmer is attached to the top of the actual card reader.

Should you detect a potential skimming device, if possible immediately alert an employee of the establishment and call the non-emergency number at 715-232-1283.

Another good general practice to implement for added protection of your data and finances is to use a “chipped” card for your transactions. Chipped, or “EMV,” cards are becoming more common, and they are much more adept at protecting your data from criminals because the data on the card is constantly changing and is difficult to extract.

Lastly, always monitor your bank accounts for any odd or unusually large charges. Set up text or email alerts to send to your phone or email when charges hit your account — such as purchases made without a card swipe, or gas station purchases — allowing you to be immediately aware of any potential fraudulent withdrawals.

Brenna Jasper is the crime prevention specialist for the Menomonie Police Department. She can be reached at longb@menomonie-wi.gov

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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