Warning: card-skimming scams are now targeting EBT users


An expert weighs in on how to protect yourself

A new wave of card skimming has popped up in Massachusetts, where thieves are installing card skimming devices on point-of-sale systems (POS) and ATMs at gas stations and grocery stores.

But, in addition to going after credit cards, these skimmer scammers are now focusing on EBT (“SNAP” food stamps) cards, too. Just this month, the head of one Romanian skim scan ring was sentenced to seven years in prison for such a scheme.

Together, between regular credit/debit card skimming and, now, with EBT card skimming, the number of fraudulent incidents involving credit cards and ATMs has surged by 60%, costing consumers a billion dollars annually. 

And, these crooks are not just good, they're hall of fame-worthy as you'll see in the video below.

EBT cards are sitting ducks

ConsumerAffairs reached out to cyber expert Scott Schober, CEO of BVS, the company behind Skim Scan, technology that detects an illegally placed, deep-insert skimmer. We asked Schober to explain why EBT cards are getting preferential treatment from scammers.

"The colossal mistake in the SNAP EBT card rollout is that in all 50 states, none of the cards have an embedded chip on the cards being issued.  Rather, they are a basic debit card with mag stripe decades old technology on them that is vulnerable to card skimmers.

“What is particularly disturbing is this next generation of skimmers is not discernible from outside the ATM at all. Consumers are often told to jiggle the bezel to see if the ATM reader was tampered with and to look for security stickers to show the ATM was recently inspected.” 

While this was sound advice a number of years ago, Schober says it is now causing consumers to trust that these measures are sufficient before they insert their EBT debit card, "and clearly they are not.”

Beating the skimmers at their own game

Schober says that consumers need to look for subtle scams that could trick them. 

“Imagine you walk into your favorite convenience store to get some desperately needed food for your family and upon check out you notice a hand-written sign that says 'Chip broken please Swipe Card’.  What do you do?,” he asks. 

“Most consumers innocently would swipe their card," Schober said. "Unfortunately, cybercriminals often will take crazy glue and squirt it on the end of a dummy credit card and quickly insert it in the chip card reader slot rendering the chip reader to not function. The store manager is unaware as this takes seconds to ruin the chip reader and simply puts up a note the chip reader is not working and to swipe.”

Can law enforcement stop this? Schober would like to say yes, but like a lot of scams that involve technology such as identity theft, it’s somewhat of a cat-n-mouse game where tools like Skim Scan are rolled out and, then, the scammers figure out a way to get around those new defenses.

“Still, I am starting to see signs we are winning this battle as cyber criminals' days of skimming are numbered,” he said.

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