HomeTechnologyHow to spot a bank card skimmer

How to spot a bank card skimmer

Jacob Mutisi
THE number one crime in Zimbabwe is card cloning and it is on the rise, with someone in Zimbabwe falling victim on average every 60 minutes.

Card cloning is the making of an unauthorised copy of a bank card. This practice is also referred to as skimming. Zimbabwe’s criminals copy information on a swipe card using an electronic device and transfer the data from the stolen card to a new card or rewrite an existing card with the information.

According to a World Bank commissioned Digital Economy for Africa Diagnostic Report, Zimbabwe is now a digital economy, with 96% of its transactions now being cashless and electronic, dominating all the transactions performed in the country.

Unfortunately with domination of electronic transactions, cloning and related forms of theft have become increasingly widespread in recent decades in Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe, the most common way bank cards are cloned is through the use of a card skimmer. Skimming is a capture device that allows a criminal to record all the data on a bank card so they can take money from the victim’s account. A bank card skimmer is sometimes placed on bank automatic teller machine (ATM) card slots, but criminals have been known to put them on any machine that accepts bank cards.

Zimbabwe’s cyber criminals are less sophisticated. Card-skimming con men and con women, who capture your Personal Identification Number (PIN) separately, will install a camera to record the keypad pin. Skimming devices are often placed into a false front on the machine and can be extremely difficult to spot.

Bank card skimmers are tiny, malicious card readers hidden within legitimate card readers that harvest data from every person that swipes their cards.

After letting the hardware sip data for some time, a cyber-crime will stop by the compromised machine to pick up the file containing all the stolen data.

With that information the criminal will create cloned cards or just commit fraud. Perhaps the scariest part, fellow countrymen and women, skimmers do not prevent the ATM or bank card reader from functioning properly, making them harder to detect.

Swipe machines are readily available and skimmers fit perfectly over existing bank card readers. Card cloners place hidden cameras somewhere in the vicinity in order to record personal identification numbers, or PINs, used to access accounts.

The camera may be in the card reader, mounted at the top of the bank ATM, or even in the ceiling. Some criminals go so far as installing fake PIN pads over the actual keyboards to capture the PIN directly, bypassing the need for a camera.

You need to protect yourself from  bank card Skimmers?

The most secure card at the moment is the CBZ Bank card with a Near Field Communication (NFC), tap and pay. Whenever you can, use NFC to make a payment, you do not give access to the card to a fraudster.

The use of payment apps like Android Pay instead of using a physical card eliminates the possibility of skimming. If you ever use an ATM, use one that is supervised. Fraudsters are less likely to tamper with supervised ATMs compared to unsupervised ATMs.

Do not ever let anybody take your card and walk away. Keep the card under your watch at all times. Due to card cloning most businesses now use pay-at-the-table technology. You do not need to hand over your card’s custody to a stranger. The staff bring a card reader to your table so you can swipe the card yourself.

A bank card is the only gateway to your bank accounts. A bank card chip adds another layer of security to the card and makes it difficult for skimmers to collect your data.

If your card information still gets stolen, the skimmer will only be able to use that specific account for unauthorised transactions. Zimbabweans need to set up email and text notifications for transactions. You should receive a notification stating the amount and the name of the recipient each time you transact using your bank card. This way, if there is an unauthorised transaction, you can be quick to act on it.

Criminals will always be out to get your money. It is vital for you to be vigilant and protect your money against those who conspire to steal it. With the growth of technology, it requires some time and effort to be on the defensive. However, in the long run, you will save a lot of time, effort, and money by protecting and securing your bank card.

  • For more information please call/whatsapp +263772278161 chair@zict.org.zw
  • Mutisi is the CEO of Hansole Investments (Pvt) Ltd and the current chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology, a division of Zimbabwe Institution for Engineers.

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