What is Credit Card “Shimming”?

Aaron Bouren
4 min readOct 16, 2020

Chip-enabled cards were designed to reduce instances of identity theft and fraud by adding an additional layer of security. However, it didn’t take scammers long to find a new way to hack into our private information.

Shimming is the new version of skimming that reads credit card chip information, allowing the card to be duplicated or its information to be sold illegally.

Shimming vs. Skimming

Skimming is a method of identity theft that reads a card’s magnetic stripe. When a credit or debit card is swiped through a skimmer, the device captures and stores all the details stored in the card’s magnetic stripe. The stripe contains the credit card number, expiration date, and the credit card holder’s full name. Thieves use the stolen data to make fraudulent charges either online or with a counterfeit credit card

Shimming is largely the same concept, but instead of reading the stripe, skimmers read the information in the card’s chip. Fraudsters insert a “shim” into the card reader that allows them to copy the chip-card information. Now, they can use that information to create another chip card.

When a fraudster is skimming and shimming it requires them to attach or insert a mechanism into a card reader for them to be able to gather the information. These types of fraud can be difficult to spot for unsuspecting consumers. However, by learning how they work can help you be more aware the next time you insert your credit or debit card.

How Does Credit Card Shimming Work?

Credit card shimming works by inserting a small device called a “shim” into a card reader. Unlike skimmers-which were typically bulky and easily detectable if you knew what to look for-shims are small and subtle.

Whenever a chip-enabled card is inserted into the reader, the shim collects its data. Then, the scammer collects this data by inserting what looks like a regular card into the reader. This makes it difficult to spot suspicious activity, as it appears the scammer is making a regular transaction.
As the technology currently stands, scammers aren’t able to create an exact duplicate of chip-enabled cards based on the shimming data they collect. They are, however, able to create a version of the card with a magnetic stripe only-which many retailers still accept.

How to Keep Your Cards Secure

Identity theft is not always avoidable. Here are some habits you can start to incorporate to make sure you’re as protected as possible.

  • Consider contactless payment. The best way to protect against physical devices that steal your card information is to simply avoid them altogether. Contactless payment-like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Google Pay-make paying simple and streamlined.
  • Choose your ATM strategically. Only use ATMs that are in high-traffic areas or banks to reduce the chances of them being compromised.
  • Check for tampering. Wiggle the card reader or slot before inserting your card. A traditional skimmer will come off. If your card doesn’t go into the slot smoothly, this could be a sign of a shim inside. Consider choosing a different ATM.
  • Be cautious at the pump. If you choose to pay at the pump, choose a pump that is closest to the store and in direct view of an employee. If you’re skeptical, the safest option may be to pay the attendant inside.

What To Do If You Are A Victim of Fraud

Banks have some fraud detection technology in place that may catch suspicious activity before it becomes problematic, but it doesn’t catch everything. If you suspect you’ve fallen victim to skimming or shimming, you’ll want to act quickly.

  1. Contact your credit card issuer right away. They will cancel your card access and send you a new card if needed.
  2. Call the business where you think the shimming happened so that they can check their card readers for signs of tampering.
  3. Alert your local law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission. They may be able to notice a wider pattern and stop other consumers from becoming victims.

Though it may seem like a pain to take extra safety precautions like these mentioned above, it’s definitely worth it. If you become a victim of fraud, it will feel like a full-time job trying to fix it. Between calling your credit card companies, checking your statements, and tracing your steps it can be a lot of work. Not to mention updating any automatic withdrawals or subscriptions with your new card/payment information. You definitely don’t want to miss a payment from a credit card being canceled and updated. This could put you at risk of falling behind on your bills (which can affect your credit score if you miss a payment). When using your credit cards take time to scan the retailer equipment to ensure the conditions are safe. Trust us it is worth the hassle!

Identity theft and fraud can temporarily wreak havoc on your credit score, but the effects don’t have to be permanent. Work with a credit repair company to help identify if you have been a victim of fraud. If so they will be able to dispute any inaccurate items caused by a scammer to help get your credit back to where it should be.

Originally published at https://lifeguardcreditsolutions.com on October 16, 2020.



Aaron Bouren

Aaron Bouren, CEO of Bouren Ventures, is an entrepreneur, public speaker, sales trainer, and marketing expert. Learn more at aaronbouren.com