Guest Columns

From the Desk of the DA: Skimming/Electronic Theft

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Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore

As Westchester County’s chief law enforcement officer, I want to wish you a safe and happy holiday season, and at the same time I want to caution you about a disturbing trend in credit and debit card theft as you make your holiday purchases. You may have heard about “skimming,” in which thieves substitute card-reading devices with illegal devices and in some cases hidden cameras that record your account information and PIN. I want to share some important information to help protect Westchester residents from becoming victims of this crime.

Thieves substitute their own card-reading devices in ATM’s or credit card machines, and at the same time often place concealed cameras overhead to record your PIN as you enter it on the keypad. Once the thieves skim your information, they use it — or sell it to another thief, often overseas, who uses it – for illegal purposes that include encoding your account data onto a lost, stolen or counterfeit debit or credit card that can then be fraudulently used elsewhere.

Skimming occurs in many settings where credit and debit cards are frequently used, including ATMs at banks. Recently, the MTA discovered that thieves had placed illegal card readers at commuter ticket kiosks in train stations in Chappaqua and on Long Island. At a high-end retail store in Florida, security cameras recently filmed thieves who placed high-tech cable connectors on sales terminals to record customers’ credit and debit card information. Dishonest employees at stores and restaurants have been reported swiping customers’ credit and debit cards in illegal card readers when a customer pays a bill.

There are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that thieves will skim your account information, or to seek immediate help if you are the victim of such a theft. When you are using your credit, debit or ATM card, keep these safety measures in mind:

  • Check for any sign of tampering with the slot where you insert your card;
  • Look at the area above and around an ATM for any sign of a concealed camera;
  • As you enter your PIN, use your hand to cover the keypad so that a hidden camera is unable to capture it;
  • Never share your PIN or allow someone to enter your PIN for you.

At home, routinely scrutinize your monthly credit card and bank statements or regularly check on line bank accounts. Do not hesitate to question any unknown or suspect transaction with your bank or card company. It helps to keep receipts to help you verify or question transactions that appear on your bill. Feel free to ask personnel at the bank, stores and restaurants that you patronize about the steps they are taking to protect their customers against skimming.

I hope you find this advice helpful in safeguarding your financial information. I wish you and your family a safe and healthy holiday season and a happy new year

For more information on the work of the District Attorney’s Office, please visit our website at


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