By practicing common sense. By being safe. By avoiding places that seem “shady” in nature (POS- points of sale- places, that is). Thieves prey on the vulnerable and the unprotected and the best way to protect yourself against such an unneeded/unwanted transaction is… to be prepared.
First of all, when you step in front of an ATM, your finances are all exposed via that one little critical number: the PIN. It goes without saying that your PIN should not be an obvious number, like your birth year or the year you got married in. When setting up a PIN in the first place, be as random as you can.
Second, when you actually are entering that PIN into an ATM, make sure you protect it from any wandering eyes. You don’t know who is standing next to you and you don’t know who is behind you. Therefore, ALWAYS be vigilant. (Also, some skimming machines are hidden inside of the ATM’s cameras, so try to be careful about that as well).
This same logic applies to when you are making a purchase at a POS with your debit or credit card. There you are, thinking about the bag of potato chips you just bought, not realizing that while you punch in your respective PIN, someone could be just over your shoulder, taking note. Even the cashier could not be trustworthy or the POS machine itself could be rigged; never be too trusting.
It also pays to maintain an accurate reading on your bank statements. Look at it regularly to check on whether or not there are any unwarranted activities going on. Do you not remember purchasing that $50 TV in Mexico? You may want to give your bank a call.
Never say your PIN out loud, either. Treat it with the same reverence you would treat your social security number, for example. That number is between you and the bank. The moment it steps out of these boundaries is the moment thieves will declare “open season” on your finances.
Of course, there is always the possibility you may lose your card, as we are all human and do such things. If that happens, take immediate action; don’t wait for your card to miraculously show up.
Call your card issuer of choice and explain to them your card is MIA. By doing that, they can freeze or even cancel your account. And often, if your card does somehow turn up, you can take steps to reverse the actions.
If you follow these steps, you should be okay from credit card skimming, but even the mightiest among us (take the federal prosecutor for example) can fall victim to increasingly wily thieves.