Question of the Day: What is Skimming?

Nov 18, 2014
Activity, Question of the Day, Credit Cards, Identity Theft, Lesson Idea, Debit Cards

I thought about an activity that might engage students to learn more about identity theft.  One popular way to steal an identity is through “skimming.”  What is skimming?

From Fox News:

“It’s a small digital gadget that reads the magnetic information from your credit or debit card. Thieves install them in ATMs, gas pumps and vending machines, or they use a handheld unit to steal thousands of cards in no time and make millions of dollars.”

I searched Google News over the past month and there were over 1400 references to “credit card skimming.”  Here is a sampling of headlines:

  • Credit card skimmers found at RTD light rail stations (Denver Post)
  • West Haven police seek attempted ATM “skimming” suspects (NBC Connecticut)
  • Overland Park man admits skimming credit cards at Taco Bell (KMBC)
  • I-Drive Hotel employee used skimming device (

Now that students are convinced this an issue, send them out for a WebQuest to find ways to protect themselves from skimmers.  Ask them to come up with at least three strategies.


Check out the NGPF Lesson on Scams, Frauds and Identity Theft

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

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