New York police have a new tool to catch credit-card skimmers.
Those are the malicious devices that capture bank information from the magnetic stripe on your credit and debit cards. And then the thieves use the information to buy way too much stuff at Walmart.
Anyway, researchers figured out how to detect the devices at the point of sale. So far, police have found one.
The Good News
The good news is the Skim Reaper is 100-percent effective, according to reports. And although NYPD is the only agency to use it, seven more police departments have signed on.
The Skim Reaper, the developers say, can help fight billions of dollars in payment card fraud annually. Skimmers are everywhere, including gas pumps, ATMs and other points of sale.
"Our analysis shows the Skim Reaper effectively detects 100 percent of devices supplied by the NYPD," they say. "In so doing, we provide the first robust and portable mechanism for detecting card skimmers."
The bad news, of course, is that one bust is not a huge dent in a billion-dollar criminal industry. Plus, thieves have more than one way to steal your information.
The Bad News
The Skim Reaper targets only certain kinds of skimmer theft -- overlays and deep inserts. Overlays are devices that go on top of the card readers; deep inserts are hidden inside the slot.
Wiretap skimmers, an emerging technology, grab your data through internal components. They work like wiretaps, intercepting information as it goes from the card to the machine's computer.
There is a low-tech way to defend against the card skimmers, which typically include a hidden camera. Don't let them see your PIN.