Technology is a double-edged sword.

Technology has definitely made our lives so much easier and a lot more convenient. This is especially true when it comes to banking! Gone are the days when the only way to do bank transactions is by physically going there, fall in line and have a teller process whatever it is that you need.

Nowadays, doing bank transactions is as easy as snapping your fingers. Need money to pay for groceries but you have no cash on hand? No problem! Just go to the nearest ATM to get money, or even better, use your credit or debit card- one swipe and you’re good to go. Finally found that hard-to-find book online but you’re on the other side of the world from where it could be bought? Easy! With just one click, purchase the item by typing in your card details and voilà- the book will be delivered right at your doorstep in a week or so.

However, with all the advantages of technology on banking, there are drawbacks that pose serious threats that will make you think if technology is really a blessing or a curse. One of, if probably not the worst blow of technology to banking is breach of security, brought about by card skimming.

What is card skimming?

Skimming is the process of using modern technology (i.e. card readers or scanners) that access the information from your card’s magnetic stripe. They are usually attached to automated teller machines and payment terminals. Once you use the machine or swipe your card on the terminal with a skimming device (or skimmer), your data will get picked up and stored- and whoever gets a hold of the skimmer and the details it has will, well, you know the rest. This process is a breeding ground for card fraud, and believe me, you don’t want to be involved in that drama!

It’s bad enough that a complete stranger could wipe out your hard-earned savings in a day, or that you might have to pay for a 55-inch HD/Android TV that you did not buy yourself, but what if your details will be used for illegal transactions? Or the thief assumes your identity through your card and commits a crime? Seems far-fetched, but it COULD happen!

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How do we avoid falling victims to this?

The key is to be wise and alert! Know what to watch out for and keep tabs of the red flags. Here are some tips to help you out:

  • As much as possible, use an ATM in secure locations (such as inside the bank or hotel lobby.)
  • Check the machine!
    • Does it have signs of tampering. If something looks out-of-place, better find another ATM to use.
    • If you couldn’t see any visual differences, push at everything. ATMs are constructed solidly and generally don’t have loose parts. Pull at protruding parts; everything should be securely attached.
  • Wiggle your card as you insert it in the machine.The skimmer needs the stripe (of your card) to go in a single motion for them to read the data correctly. If the ATM is the type where it takes your card and returns it at the end of the transaction, then the reader is on the inside. Card wiggling will not exactly interfere with the transaction, but it will definitely obstruct the skimmer.
  • It helps to be a little paranoid! Before starting ATM transactions, always look over your shoulder or through a hidden camera to check if there’s someone looking. Cover the keypad with your hand when you enter your PIN.
  • For online transactions:
    • Avoid divulging your credit card information via email.
    • If you have to pay an item or service online, make sure that you are using a secure or accredited website.

My card got skimmed. Now what?

Sadly, card skimming could still happen to some individuals despite taking caution. When this unfortunate incident does happen to you, (but we are praying it won’t!), the first thing to do is to inform your bank RIGHT AWAY. Timely reporting will spare you from being liable for the lost amount; banks could even return the money taken from you. Thankfully, banks are now taking action too. Through their active fraud protection policies, they now have representatives monitoring  your card transactions and will get in touch with you (be it through phone, SMS or email) if they notice something suspicious- like a hefty or unusual purchase.

So, fret not! Technology in banking should be considered a blessing, and not something you should be afraid of. Of course it has its setbacks, but don’t let that get in the way of enjoying the convenience that is being provided to you. Protect yourself from fraud by being a vigilant and responsible card owner.

– Photo courtesy of