June 16, 2024

Composed by Michael Bartiromo and Nick DeGray

Just 4 months ago

SUDBURY, Mass. (NEXSTAR/WWLP) – After several credit card skimming devices were found at various retail outlets across New England, local authorities have warned customers to remain alert to such snares.

On the eve of Christmas, while manning the self-checkout area at a Sudbury Farms supermarket in Sudbury, Massachusetts, an employee chanced upon a skimming gadget. This contraption is engineered to impersonate a legit credit-card reader, something that Nexstar’s WWLP reported on. A similar device was later detected in another self-checkout lane.

Shortly after this discovery, an investigation was triggered by the parent company of the supermarket chain. This led to more skimmers being found at four other locations all over Massachusetts.

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Moreover, in November, Concord, New Hampshire police issued a warning about the skimming devices found at a Walmart and a Market Basket supermarket in the city. “Investigations into similar incidents are ongoing across New England”, a statement from the Concord Police read.

Understanding Skimming Scams

The FBI defines skimming scams as attacks aimed at individuals using ATMs, gas station pumps, or credit card readers at retail shops. Perpetrators of these scams deftly fabricate devices that resemble genuine card readers to appear legitimate.

The FBI describes the contraption utilized as one that appears remarkably similar to a card reader, attached over the actual, factory-installed card reader. As soon as the victim slides their card through, the device captures the card information and either saves it for later retrieval or relays it to the fraudsters.

It’s also worth noting that scammers can employ hidden cameras to register victims as they key in their ATM PINs. Moreover, some even create bogus numerical pads to track the keystrokes of users so as to swipe their codes.

Identifying a Skimming Device

The FBI provides useful tips to protect one’s sensitive information. Ensure you assess the reader for any loose parts, havoc or defects before you slide your card through. If the reader feels detached after a light shake, let an employee know.

Also, to prevent cameras from recording your PINs, always use one hand to shield the other as you input your pin.

The Concord Police further revealed that some scammers make targets use their fraudulent readers (which don’t support the safer chip functionality because of the difficulty to steal information from them), by disabling the chip slots to make them seem stuck or jammed.

Moreover, popular tourist locales often have ATMs that are attractive hacker targets, as per the FBI.

This image shared by the New Hampshire police in November shows a skimming device that was found at a Concord-based shopping outlet. The device, designed to be affixed over an authentic card reader, dupes victims into swiping their cards or typing in confidential information. (Credit: Concord Police Department)

The Federal Trade Commission offers a checklist for noticing skimming signs at gas stations— These could include broken security seals over the panel or card readers that seem loose/different from those at nearby pumps. The Commission suggests paying in cash or at least avoiding debit transactions to escape having to enter a PIN for those aiming for higher security.

If you feel you’ve been ensnared in a scam, the FBI advises getting in touch with the bank or credit card company that issued the card. It’s also essential to notify local law enforcement agencies about probable scams.

Reflecting on the circumstances in Massachusetts, the supermarket spokesperson stated that customers who frequented and used self-checkout lanes at the affected grocery outlets on or prior to Christmas Eve may have been potential victims to the skimming tactic. However, no reports of breached customer data were obtained a few days subsequent to the devices being found.