The Credit and debit cards dominate the major payment landscape, attackers often acquired card data by placing skimmers in legitimate payment terminals. It is difficult to find the skimmer attached.

Researchers from the University of Florida developed Skim Reaper that detects physical properties and necessary constraints for a wide range of skimmers that steal card data.

The Skim Reaper development was developed with the support of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) Financial Crimes Task Force. NYPD collected skimmer devices around 16 months between 2016-Jul-14 to 2017-Nov-11 and sent the devices to researchers for Skim Reaper development.

Here is the promotional sales video disclosed by two ATM Skimmer providers.

Skim Reaper Usage

The Skim Reaper is a portable payment card-shaped device that relies on intrinsic properties of the magnetic stripe to read additional payment card heads in payment terminals.

Also Read Free Android App that helps you to Detect Credit Card Skimmers at Fuel Pump

In order to find the skimmer the Skim Reaper needs to be inserted in the card slot and that reads the number of payments heads connected with the payment terminals if it is more that one, then there is a skimmer.

The entire Skim Reaper device, consisting of the microcontroller system (left) and the measurement card (right). The card is inserted into a card acceptor, where the number of reading heads is measured by the microcontroller.


Skimmers are essentially malicious card readers that grab the data of the card’s magnetic stripe attached to the real payment terminals so that they can harvest data from every person that swipes their cards.

External Skimmers

These skimmers have no access to internal target machine’s and these skimmers can be deployed in seconds and it difficult to identify.

Internal Skimmers

They are the physical taps installed inside a payment terminal. They intercept the communications
path between the card reader and other components.

10 Real Skimmers From NYPD

Researchers tested the Skim Reaper against the popular real skimmers provided by NYPD and it successfully detected the skimmers. It also detects the deep-insert skimmer by examining its metal body, actually, this skimmer doesn’t have an additional read head.

“Skim Reaper successfully detects every overlay and deep-insert skimmer we have obtained, and as we have shown, making these undetectable relies on overcoming current limitations in reading magnetic stripes, confirming our hypothesis”.

When you approach an ATM, check for some obvious signs of tampering at the top of the ATM, near the speakers, the side of the screen, the card reader itself, and the keyboard.

If something looks different, such as a different color or material, graphics that aren’t aligned correctly, or anything else that doesn’t look right, don’t use that ATM.

Researchers published a whitepaper on the topic “Fear the Reaper: Characterization and Fast Detection of Card Skimmers” and it is you can download it from here.

Also Read

Advanced ATM Penetration Testing Methods

Undetectable ATM “Shimmers” Hacker’s Latest Tool for Steal your Chip Based Card Details from POS Terminal

ATM Skimmer – How to Spot and Avoid Dangerous ATM Insert Skimmer

Guru is an Ex-Security Engineer at Comodo Cybersecurity. Co-Founder - Cyber Security News & GBHackers On Security.


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