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The NYPD’s “Skim Reaper” Out to Beat ATM, Gas Pump Skimming

May 15, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

Automatic teller machine (ATM) skimming is still a major problem, particularly in large urban areas like New York City. It’s also a problem at gas pumps, which is terrible if you’re a big credit card user at gas stations. Recently, however, it’s brought out a new device that may be able to help stem the tide of skimming systems in place: the Skim Reaper.

The Skim Reaper is a device about the size of a credit card that can be inserted into card reader slots. Once it’s been put in place, it can readily tell if there’s tampering involved with that ATM, gas pump, or anything else that takes a card. Most skimmers, reports note, work by adding a “read head” somewhere to the machine, either inside or outside, that allows the skimmer to make a copy of the information on the card placed into it.

With the Skim Reaper, however, that read head becomes more readily detected, and from there, more readily stopped. Developed by a cybersecurity expert and a pair of Florida graduate students,five test units were provided to the NYPD with positive results.

Officers using a Skim Reaper actually detected a skimmer at a Brooklyn ATM, and Detective James Lilla of the NYPD’s Financial Crimes Task Force noted “I’ve been doing skimming for approximately five years now and I have never used anything like this or have known of anything like this. It’s definitely an asset we can use to combat ATM skimming.”

Given that the NYPD has four detectives engaged in finding skimmers, it’s easy to see where a lot of such skimming would fall through the cracks. With a tool like this, it no longer needs to be the province of just four detectives. While the Skim Reaper would certainly speed things up for the detectives, it’s also the kind of tool that would be useful for banks and for gas stations, or anyone else who has an ATM on premises.

Hopefully, Skim Reapers will go mainstream in short order and render the concept of skimmers a minimal risk. It’s more possible than ever now, thanks to a little device that can spot a skimmer before a customer runs afoul of them.