Skimming has been a problem for decades, but it’s become increasingly common in the past five years—and it’s spreading. Tracie Gerstenberg, who does anti-skimming business development for ADT Business Solutions, said that while skimming was previously focused in large metro areas like “New York City, Chicago, southern California, and the entire state of Florida, really,” it has recently become prevalent in smaller suburban settings where people “aren’t as educated about skimming.”
Skimmers are getting away with more and more cash, as well. In 2010, according to Secret Service figures, skimmers netted an average of $30,000 per incident; in 2011, their take rose to $50,000. By comparison, “The average bank robbery might be around $3,000 to $4,000,” said Doug Johnson, vice president of risk management policy at the American Bankers Association. (Economists have recently shown exactly why robbing banks doesn’t pay.)
The scam has moved beyond ATMs. Skimmers now attach card readers to gas pumps across the US, capturing both credit and debit card data. Self-checkout machines at grocery stores have been targeted, too. And one larger criminal organization in New York was paying waiters to collect their well-heeled customers’ credit card data last year with hand-held card readers. That ring took in $1.2 million in cash as fake credit cards were used to purchase handbags, watches, and other luxury goods to be resold.