This holiday season, many of us will be traveling by planes, trains and automobiles. On these yearly pilgrimages, we always bring one thing: a credit card.

The "skimmer-and-shimmer" is a device that cyber criminals secretly place into ATMs, gas pumps, and other payment terminals to read and steal information from magnetic strips and security chips on your cards.

C. Ariel Pinto, associate professor of engineering management and systems engineering at Old Dominion University's Batten College of Engineering and Technology, said this information can be sold on the dark web and used for cloning your cards. These skimmer-and-shimmer devices are meant to blend in, so they are not easy to spot

He offered advice to avoid this cybertrap:

  • Be aware of peculiar things like tampered gas pump panels, or a shiny new credit card reader on an otherwise old ATM machine. If something does not look right at the payment terminal outside, pay for your gas inside, or get your cash from the bank teller.
  • Frequent places that are well lit, with monitored payment terminals and heavy foot traffic.

If you feel you were a victim of skimmed-and-shimmed scheme on the road, he said, "do not let it ruin your holiday," he said.

  • Monitor your bank and credit card for recent activities. Whoever has your credit card information will try to slip in their shopping on your dime - as soon and quick as they can.
  • Your skimmed-and-shimmed information may hang around long after the holiday. Now may be the best time to sign-up for bank alerts. Also, know your consumer rights and protection from paying for fraudulent purchases and withdrawals.

"We all know the usual hassles that come with the holiday road trip - traffic jams, cheesy curls under the car seats - but by now we have all learned to deal with those in smart ways while still having a great time," he said. "Let us all be smart, stay alert and enjoy the holiday."

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