Although most financial security forces work to protect against hackers using malware and malicious code, there is a more common and cheaper means of stealing financial information that can be difficult for credit and debit card users to detect.
With a method known as "skimming," criminals are able to obtain card information through a single swipe, IJReview reported. Skimmers are discrete devices that can be attached to publicly-used card readers, such as ATMs. Once installed, the device is able to capture the credit or debit card number, expiration date, and the security number of any card that is swiped through the card reader.
According to Michael Legary, founder of cyber security firm Seccuris, skimmers are designed to be hidden, so they can be hard to spot. The devices have the same magnetic reader as other card readers and are placed in front of legitimate readers, such as those at ATMs or gas pumps, CBC News reported.
Although the inconspicuous devices can be tricky to distinguish, Legary provided tips to CBC on several ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim of skimming.
1. Check the card reader for anything unusual, like a plastic attachment.
"You have to be cautious and if you think something's out of the ordinary, if the plastic looks cheap or flimsy, or looks like something is falling off, whether it be a gas pump or ATM or whatever, be suspicious and use another one before using that device," Legary said.
2. Contact your bank and credit card company if you suspect your financial information has been compromised.
When in doubt, Legary suggests calling your bank and credit card company, so they will put flags on your cards to ensure there’s additional monitoring for unusual activity.
3. Keep track of your purchase activity with money management websites.
Use sites that are designed to monitor your credit card and bank account activity. Sites such as mint.com will alert you when something outside of your standard purchasing is detected. They may even be able to discover the skimming before the bank, Legary said.