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How Does Debit/Credit Card Skimming Work?

Debit/Credit Card Skimming

Imagine going to an ATM for cash withdrawal, taking your money and going back home safely. You suddenly get a message from your bank that someone has withdrawn cash from your card. Well, your ATM card just got “skimmed”. The stories of Debit/Credit card being “hacked” are suddenly on the rise.

Skimming mainly consists of making the copy of the magnetic stripe of a credit or debit card. It can happen not only in ATMs but anywhere the card is used. Your card can be skimmed even at superstores and petrol pumps. The tools required for skimming the bank cards are freely available on the dark web. These tools mostly resemble the parts of an ATM machine or are hidden in small places. Once the user’s card has passed through the skimmer’s reader, it already has most of the information it needs.


The magnetic stripe, present in all types of bank cards, has three tracks or data writing areas in which, according to ISO 7811, all the necessary information is recorded: the card number, the full name of the cardholder, the expiration date and the security code or CVV.

With this information, the skimmer already has everything necessary to make online purchases or even sell the data to other users interested in the Deep Web. You can even move the data to a blank card and create one using devices that can be purchased on the Internet.

The cloning method is so fast that anyone can become a victim without having felt any anomaly in the usual payment processes. The thieves get access to our data to transfer them to a blank card or make transactions online, for which even physical cloning will not be necessary. There are scores of methods available to the cyber-criminals to steal the card data.


There are a several measures recommended by the institutions, in addition to common sense.

  • Do not lose sight of the card when you make a payment.
  • Make sure that the card reader in which the card is being swiped is the usual one provided by banks.
  • At ATMs or shops, it is recommended to cover the click of the pin with one hand, since the skimmers are accompanied by cameras to read the secret number. If you’re giving the card to the cashier, make sure that he or she doesn’t look at the PIN at the back of the card.
  • Regularly check bank statements. Do not forget that most banks offer online services so we can do it comfortably check them from home.
  • Use the SMS alerts or the application for your bank’s smartphones to send you an alert when charges are made with the card. You can then instantly get your card blocked.
  • When using ATMs, check the ATM machine, check if the machine seems tampered or not.
  • Avoid ATMs located on public roads whenever possible. It is more likely that they have been manipulated.
  • The use of smart chip cards is a highly recommended measure since they have not yet been cloned. Moreover, even if it were achieved, it would be necessary to know our personal key to make a purchase.
  • The companies are trying to fight against this criminal practice and perform constants in security technologies, but we have to take into account that criminals will always try to violate the new systems. In short, we must be careful with our keys and cards.

About Ehtesham Hussain

Tech enthusiast. Internet Sherlock Holmes. I report social media and communication technology.

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