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 Fraud Information About "Skimming"

The Palm Bay Police Department would like to make its citizens aware of a growing trend among criminals. The crime is referred to as "skimming" and it involves the illegal capture of personal credit card information.

A person intent on perpetrating a crime like this can use any number of legally obtained electronic devices which are designed to collect the information contained in the magnetic strip on the back of a debit or credit card. The electronic device can be held in the palm of the hand or can be installed inside a gas pump or on the exterior of an automated teller machine. Some cards containing RFID (radio frequency identification) chips can be read as far away as four feet. The use of RFID "readers" has been called "electronic pick-pocketing." 


Fraud Crime Prevention Tips

The best defense against “skimming” is to use cash to make purchases. If you must use your card, keep it in your sight. If you dine out, make sure you plan ahead to use cash. Oftentimes, a server will take your card and it will leave your sight, providing an opportunity for the compromise of the card information. If you use cash, it will offer you more security knowing the opportunity for skimming has not been provided.

You can avoid “skimming” at the gas pump by being observant. Some inventive fraudsters have devised ways to install a “skimmer” behind the card readers at gas pumps. Look for signs of tampering around the area of the card reader on the pump. Look at the lock on the panel that allows technicians access to work on the pump. To avoid an external skimmer, tug on the card reader and look at the other pumps. Does it look as though it has been modified in any way? If it looks wrong, don’t use it. Some gas retailers have begun using a strip of security tape around the access panel to the card reader on the pump. This will usually have a serial number on it. Don’t use the pump if that tape is broken- think of it as the seal on a grocery or pharmacy item and “void if seal is broken”!

If your card has an RFID microchip, it will usually have a specific RFID symbol on the back. The symbol looks like four arcs arranged in increasing size and equidistant apart. If you are unsure, you can ask your financial institution if your card has an RFID chip in it. The cheapest protection against electronic pick-pocketing is to make a small envelope out of tinfoil and store your card within it. There are companies that manufacture and market RFID protection and have many specific products. Any “big box” store that sells a high volume of computers may also have anti-static bags available. The bags are used to ship computer hard drives and are discarded after shipping.

These few simple steps can significantly reduce your risk of losing information to “skimmers” and improve your peace of mind and confidence in our ever-changing digital age. If you have questions about “skimming” or other fraudulent activity, or if you have been the victim of fraud, please call (321) 952-3456.

Information Courtesy of Detective David Raney,

Winter Springs Police Department

Emergency: 911 / Non-Emergency: 321-952-3456