Criminals using new technology to target people's bank accounts

Criminals are turning to two new kinds of skimming devices to steal your personal information and cash.

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Skimming is when criminals hide electronic devices on ATMs and gas pumps to steal customers' credit or debit card information.

"It's a constantly evolving crime here in Cambridge. We see waves of it," said Jeremy Warnick, Cambridge Police Department communications director.

The first kind of new skimmer is called a shimmer, which goes on the outside of the card reader. The shimmer is much smaller previous devices and blends in better.

A tiny arm scans the card when people use it.

"That metal connection steals and stores all of the magnetic strip data " Special Agent Matt Hayes said.

The other device is called a deep-insert skimmer.

The thief takes a very thin piece of metal with electronics hot-glued on top and inserts it into the card reader. There's still room for a card to fit in it.

“What the criminals are trying to do is plant these, even for a few days, or a day or even an event, go back to the scene take their technology with them, and then plant them somewhere else,” Warnick said.

Trace Gouws said someone stole her daughter's credit card information a few months ago. She said investigators believe it was a skimming device at a gas station but it is unclear what kind of skimmer was used.

"Everybody's card sooner or later is getting hacked," Gouws said. "I know that sooner or later everything gets hacked."

Here is what to look for:

  • If it's a shimmer, look closely because you may be able to spot it.
  • If it's a deep-insert skimmer, it may be just tight enough, and you have to tug to get your card out.
  • As always, keep an eye on your accounts. Report anything suspicious right away so investigators can look for similar cases.
  • If you have a choice, use ATMs inside buildings instead of the stand-alone kind and pay for your gas inside.
  • If you have a choice, use contactless payment methods.
  • The BBB said to try using tap-and-go features on your credit card instead of swiping or inserting your card.

MORE: Credit card companies urge gas stations to update skimming security

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