BBB: Shimming is the new skimming; how to protect yourself

How scammers are turning to new technique to steal from you

By Destiny McKeiver - Multi-media journalist, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

New credit card chips that make it harder for scammers to steal payment information have forced con artists to change their techniques, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Instead of "skimming" information by inserting a device to harvest information from a payment swipe, they're "shimming" information from devices that read data from a credit card chip, the BBB says.

Scammers succeeded with skimming for a while, but skimmers don't work for cards with newer chip technology and card skimmers are easy to notice because they are often bulky or wobbly.

That's why con artists have turned to shimming.

Scammers insert a shim -- a paper-thin, card-sized device with an embedded microchip and flash storage -- into the slot where you enter the chip side of your credit or debit card.

When you insert your card at a gas pump, ATM or another card reader, it copies and saves your payment information.

Then, scammers return with a special card that collects the stolen information, such as your PIN and card number. They use the stolen data to make purchases with your account information.

Protect yourself from shimming

Shannon Nelson with BBB Jacksonville said your best bet to avoid scammers is to pay attention.

"Always this time of year you just want to make sure you’re watching your bank accounts closely," Nelson said.

Here are some ways to protect your accounts from thieves using shim devices:

  • Keep a close eye on your bank and credit accounts. Check your online statements regularly to make sure there are no suspicious charges. If you see any, report them to your bank or credit card company immediately. Use the customer service number on the back of the card to be sure you are reaching the real company and not an imposter. Make sure you contact the bank, merchant and your card issuer if you ever suspect your card has been compromised.
  • Be wary if your card gets stuck in a chip reader. If the reader seems to have a tighter than normal grip on your card, there could be a shim inside. You may want to cancel your transaction and notify the business.
  • Use contactless payment methods. Contactless payment methods are not vulnerable to shimming. Try using "tap-and-go" features on your credit card instead of swiping or inserting your card. You can also use contactless mobile services such as Apple Pay or Samsung Pay to tap and pay.
  • Go inside to a teller to withdraw cash at a bank.
  • Use ATMs in banks rather than more vulnerable stand-alones ATMs.
  • Cover the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN.
  • Don’t proceed with a transaction if your card encounters resistance when it is inserted.

Learn more about specific kinds of scams and how to avoid them at BBB.org/ScamTips.

If you've fallen victim to this type of scam, help others avoid being scammed by filing a report with BBB.org/ScamTracker.

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