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September 2018 - The 'Shimmer Scam' - What it is & How to Protect Against it

Shimmer ScamDoes anyone carry cash around with them these days? It doesn’t seem so. Even those of us who reserve our credit cards for major purchases are quick to pull out our debit cards for small, everyday transactions. It’s convenient and it’s safer . . . or so we thought.

First there was the “skimmer scam” where thieves attached devices onto ATMs and other card readers to skim information from the card’s magnetic strip. Just when we learned how to detect and protect ourselves against skimmers, thieves came up with a new way to steal our information – the “shimmer scam.”

Scammers now are inserting shimmers inside ATMs and card readers, rather than on top of them. Shimmers are paper-thin, card-sized, and almost impossible to detect, making them more dangerous than skimmers. These devices steal and store your payment information from your card’s chip with use of a microchip and flash storage. Your PIN and card number can then be used to make fraudulent purchases.

Fortunately, this scam is not widespread. Chip cards can’t be cloned in the way magnetic strip cards could. The stolen information can be used to produce a traditional magnetic strip card, but these only work at merchants who haven’t adapted to the new chip technology.

Still, you want to take some precautions so that your personal financial information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

  • When possible, use contactless payment methods like the “tap-and-go” feature on your card, or mobile services like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay.
  • If you feel resistance when you swipe or insert your card into a card reader, consider cancelling the transaction.
  • Try using an ATM inside a bank rather than a stand-alone machine when withdrawing cash. Better still, go to a teller.
  • Monitor your bank and credit accounts closely and immediately report any suspicious transactions. Be sure to use the customer service number printed on your card so you know you’re not reporting information to an imposter.

With knowledge and a little bit of caution, we can beat the bad guys.

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