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NYPD Testing 'Skim Reaper' to Fight Credit Card Fraud

Illustration for article titled NYPD Testing Skim Reaper to Fight Credit Card Fraud
Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty)

The New York Police Department is testing out a device called the “Skim Reaper” in an effort to hinder credit card fraud.

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The technology, developed by an engineering professor and two graduate students from the University of Florida, slides into credit card readers found on ATMs or gas dispensers to quickly detect the presence of an extra “read head.” Scammers install these extra readers so they can scan the card and copy information—a crime known as skimming.

The professor, Patrick Traynor, provided five Skim Reapers for the NYPD in February, according to the Associated Press. The agency has four detectives who are trained to hunt for skimmers in credit card readers. But in recent months, there has been a spike in skimmers and the NYPD reportedly says it doesn’t have the resources to keep up. “In early January we were getting killed,” NYPD Financial Crimes Task Force Deputy Inspector Christopher Flanagan told the AP. “The problem is that it’s transient, they come in and place the device and move on.”

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Flanagan told the AP that officers found the first skimmer with the technology at an ATM in Brooklyn.

Flanagan is optimistic that the device could help expand the agency’s skimming crackdown efforts by allowing any officer to inspect machines, even if they don’t have the skimming detectives’ technical training.

Traynor says it costs about $50 to build each Skim Reaper, but he’s trying to make a cheaper model.

Here’s a University of Florida video explaining how the gadget works.

The current version of the device resembles an elongated card wired to a box the size of an iPhone. Traynor wants a future version of the Skim Reaper to be wallet sized. A cheaper, smaller version of the Skim Reaper would mean anyone could use it to check a shady-looking ATM before withdrawing cash.

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[Associated Press]

Former senior reporter at Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

Ok, so...Dumb question - aren’t all of these skimmers just things that have gone on OVER the current card readers? At least, that’s what I saw them looking like in various news stories - if that’s the case, shouldn’t I be able to pull them off or wiggle them when I go to run my card through the reader?

Or, are these guys getting good enough to put it inside now, so that it doesn’t remove without opening the machine up?