The U.S. Secret Service estimates that at least $1 billion each year is stolen by credit card skimmers. If you are a consumer, your personal information can be hijacked without your knowledge as you pay for gas or withdraw cash from an ATM. If you are a small business owner, even the best credit card reader can be transformed in seconds by criminals into a means of credit card fraud. Fortunately, new technology may make skimming a thing of the past.
How Does Skimming Happen?
It only takes thieves a minute to install a skimming device on the mouth of your ATM or gas station credit card reader. Once it is in place, it works by overlaying its own credit card reader on top of your legitimate one. Many models even transmit the purloined information back to the thief via text message, eliminating the need for the crooks to return to the scene of the crime to reclaim their device.
The University of Florida Comes to the Rescue
Fortunately, criminals aren’t the only ones who are constantly coming up with game-changing innovations. A team of developers at the University of Florida recently rolled out a device that could make skimming nothing more than a bad dream for businesses and consumers alike. Designed to slide easily into the card reader, the device, cleverly named the Skim Reaper, is the shape and size of a credit card and is attached by a wire to a small box with a display. When the machine detects an unauthorized second card reader overlaid on the original, the display indicates “possible skimmer!” Quick to recognize the potential of the Skim Reaper, the New York Police Department began using them in a pilot program earlier this year.
The Skim Reaper has two major advantages going for it. For one thing, it is light and portable. Police officers on the credit card fraud beat can easily carry it along with their other gear. What’s more, this Florida-made invention currently costs only $50 to make, an expense that could drop if it is mass-marketed. If the price can be brought down enough, the Skim Reaper could become an anti-fraud tool that is placed inexpensively in the hands of millions of merchants.
With its potential low cost and ease of use, the Skim Reaper has a huge potential. It could single-handedly destroy the annual billion-dollar mass thievery that has caused misery to businesses and consumers for years. This is certainly a reaper that we can all get behind.