Turning a regular credit and debit card reader into a device that steals a victim's credit card information—commonly known as a skimmer—can take less than three seconds.
That's how long it took for an unidentified criminal in Miami Beach to install a skimming device designed to steal credit card data on top of a gas station's payment terminal, according to a video released by the local police last week. The crook and his partner, who was tasked with distracting the station's clerk, were caught on video by a security camera—but it all happens so fast that you might have to rewatch the sequence to really catch it.
The Miami Beach police published the video in the hopes that someone recognizes the two criminals and helps identify them and track them down.
Using devices to steal credit card information is an old, almost classic, credit card scam. But it can still be very effective, especially if merchants haven't switched to the new, more secure, standard of chip-enabled credit and debit cards, technically known as EMV cards. Merchants in the United States were supposed to switch support for EMV cards on October 1, 2015, but adoption has been slow.
If you see unusual payments or charges you don't recognize on your statement or account, your credit card could have been the victim of a scam like this. In that case, contact your bank as soon as possible.