Photo via Sean MacEntee (CC-BY)
Here's a cautionary tale for those of you who like to skirt human interaction and go straight to the self-checkout line. Police are currently investigating electronic credit-card skimmers found in the self-checkout lanes at Walmarts in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Fort Wright, Kentucky.
How is this possible? For one thing, credit-card skimmers are incredibly easy to install, even without the privacy of a self-checkout lane. Here's a video of one brave criminal quickly installing one in front of a cashier at a Miami Beach gas station.Now imagine how easy it is to install one of these without a cashier standing in front of you.
Credit-card skimmers aren't cheap—they retail for $300 even without the electronics needed to power them and store your data—but they're easy to pay off once you've stolen people's money.
The increased prevalence of skimmers is part of why retailers have encouraged the move to chip-based credit cards in the last year. Chip-based cards are harder to counterfeit using modern skimmer technology. It's much easier for crooks to read a magnetic stripe.
If you're worried about your information being skimmed, make sure you've updated to a new chip card and insert your card into readers rather than using the magnetic stripe.
There's no sure-fire way to avoid being scammed, but let these Walmart tales be a warning to at least take basic steps to ensure the security of your financial information.