One of the most common ways credit card thieves get your fiscal digits are through card skimmers. These devices are basically hunks of plastic designed to look exactly like legitimate parts of a machine that steal your PIN and your card info. And they’re getting a little too good, if you’re paranoid.
Here’s a video of a card skimmer being removed from a legitimate, late-model card swiping machine. You see these everywhere there’s a self-checkout line. Notice that the video takes less than thirty seconds:
Krebs on Security notes that this is sold by a fraudster for a few thousand dollars and that it’s probably manufactured with a 3D printer. It’s also, as you might notice, pretty much completely undetectable.
So how, precisely, can you avoid these things, which will be everywhere during the holidays? Well, first of all, by avoiding these machines wherever you can. Secondly, before using your card, take a good look at the device; if something seems off about the proportions or otherwise weird, find the weird part and give it a good yank. These things are designed to come off quickly, for obvious reasons, so pulling it away will often be all you need to see if it’s legit.
Finally, use a credit card. Credit cards have consumer protections built in that debit cards don’t, and it’s a lot easier to fix a maxed out credit card than it is to fix a drained bank account.