Skimming scams can get you if you’re unaware

John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.

Skimming is scam that’s becoming more and more popular over the last few years.

In fact, according to scambusters.com, security experts say skimming could be netting crooks as much as $3 billion a year in the US. Your Better Business Bureau warns you to be wary of skimmers during this holiday season.

Skimmers are often installed were you normally swipe your credit or debit card, such as ATMs, gas pumps and payment machines at merchants. They can also be small, pocketable devices tucked away in dishonest employees’ pockets for easy access to run your card through. These scammers may even use small cameras to capture you entering your PIN number, as well. Once your card is run through the skimmer, the data is recorded and criminals make counterfeit credit cards with your information. They go into business as you, and you’re unaware until a statement arrives listing purchases you didn’t make.

Awareness is one key to avoiding this scam. Here are BBB tips on how to avoid falling victim to it:

• Consider withdrawing cash via the teller instead of the ATM. However, some banks charge for this service.

• Avoid high-risk ATMs if possible. ATMs inside banks or inside stores are less likely to be tampered with. Likewise, consider paying inside at gas stations instead of at the pump.

• Consider paying in cash at restaurants instead of giving your credit card to waiters, who will walk away to process charges. Likewise, follow retail clerks claiming they need to go to another counter to run your card for payment.

• Be vigilant monitoring your bank accounts. Immediately report any unauthorized withdraws.

• Contact the bank immediately if an ATM doesn’t return your card.

• Compare ATMs if there are multiple ones at a location. If they don’t look the same, don’t use either and find somewhere else to make a withdraw.

• Protect your PIN. Cover the keypad so cameras can’t record your PIN number when you enter it.

• Walk away if something looks odd with a machine. If the card reader is loose when you give it a jiggle, it’s a red flag.

If you’re victimized by this scam, contact the police and your bank or credit card issuer immediately. Also, contact the three major credit bureaus — Trans Union, Equifax and Experian.