5 tips and a new device to keep your credit card safe. Researchers have teamed up with the New York City Police Department’s Financial Crimes Task Force to deploy the “Skim Reaper,” a device that instantly detects the presence of a credit card skimmer, allowing law enforcement and merchants to take action before the theft of card’s data.
Credit card skimmers are electronic devices criminals stick on ATMs and gas pumps to secretly suck up your sensitive financial information. With “Skim Reaper,” they may have finally met their match.
Real-world trials are already underway—researchers built five detectors for NYPD, which is deploying them in all five New York City boroughs for field testing. Preliminary tests show the device can detect skimmers with high reliability.
Consumers may be able to get their hands on one in six to nine months, and it may be small enough to fit in your wallet.
“Payment card skimming remains a popular crime, and attackers can easily get into the business using a few inexpensive parts purchased over the internet,” says Patrick Traynor, co-director of the Florida Institute for Cybersecurity (FICS) Research at the University of Florida’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. Traynor helped develop the skimmer detector.
Lt. Gregory Besson with the NYPD Financial Crimes Task Force says card skimmers are a rapidly growing problem.
“In New York City, we saw a surge in ATM skimming in the past few years, as evidenced by the increase in devices recovered by our agency, the NYPD,” he says. “In 2015, we recovered 48 devices, and two years later that number had doubled to almost a hundred devices in 2017. Correspondingly, our arrests more than doubled for the same period, from 48 skimming-related arrests in 2015 to 134 skimming arrests in 2017.
“The big takeaway is that we’re always seeking new innovative ways to tackle this growing crime type, and we welcome trying new tools that would aid us towards that goal.”
Card skimming costs more than $2 billion a year globally in fraudulent charges, according to the website ATM Marketplace. Credit card skimmers come in two varieties: those that are placed inside a legitimate card reader—think of those security stickers on gas pumps showing they’ve been inspected and are clear of internal skimmers—and those that have their own card reader, known as overlay/insert skimmers.