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Taking a little off the top

Protecting your business from skimming

Of the payment card fraud schemes merchants face today, skimming is one of the most prevalent.* Skimming is one method of stealing payment data directly from the consumer’s payment card or from a merchant’s POS system or network, and presents a distinct problem for all types of merchants.

Skimming poses a particular threat at restaurants and bars, because the customer gives their payment card to waitstaff and the card is out of the customer’s immediate view during the transaction. The server or other employee then swipes the card with a small device known as a data “skimmer,” which captures the card information, in addition to running the payment card through the POS.

Skimming is also common at automated gas stations. Thieves can install a third-party card-reading device either outside or inside a card-swiping terminal. Once the card data has been skimmed, the customer’s card information is typically sold to organized crime rings that produce counterfeit cards and rack up fraudulent charges.

Since skimming equipment is deployed at the business’ point of sale or network or by employees, the merchant is the first line of defense against this type of fraud. In addition to staff education and training, here are some things you can do to help combat skimming at your business:

  1. Require employees to use strong passwords on business systems. Passwords should not be shared and should be changed regularly.
  2. Instruct staff to check for skimming devices installed on POS systems and hand-held swipers and to be aware of anything that is out of the ordinary.
  3. Provide a list of approved service vendors authorized to access or make changes to the POS.
  4. Have a response plan for employees to report any suspicious activity. 

In addition to the above policies, check with your merchant services provider about their products and services that help minimize the threat of skimming fraud. Pay-at-table options like MercuryAnyware®, Vantiv Integrated Payments’ hand held wireless device, increase the security of sensitive cardholder data by allowing customers to keep their credit cards in their possession at all times. Contact Vantiv Integrated Payments to learn more.  


*Accounting Today, http://www.accountingtoday.com/blogs/debits-credits/skimmer-fraud-on-the-rise-69900-1.html, (March 7, 2014).  


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