Chip cards won’t fix everything

May 2019

John Bendel


Skimming may remain a problem – though a much smaller one – for a while, even after chip card readers are installed. Criminal techies have come up with a way to extract data from chip cards.

It’s called shimming, which refers to a paper-thin, card-size shim that can be inserted into a chip card reader slot in seconds. It cannot clone your chip card, but it can come up with enough data to create a magnetic strip card.

Security people says a shimmer magnetic strip clone can only be used where magnetic strip cards are still accepted – think gas stations – and only as long as credit cards still have magnetic strips. Credit card companies want magnetic strips gone, and eventually they will be.

Experts also say shimmers, which first showed up in Mexico in 2015, are extremely rare. Somehow, that’s not reassuring. They also told us no one could defeat the credit card chip.

Rare? Maybe now, but I found shimmers for sale on the open web – not the dark web – for sale at $1,100 each. The seller in Hong Kong claims you can use one to make “an exact copy” of a chip card.

Fraud? Probably. But how can you be sure?

Turns out that’s the question with all point-of-sale technology. LL

J.J. Keller
John Bendel

John Bendel is Land Line’s contributing editor-at-large. A former trucker, former editor at National Lampoon and two trucking magazines, John is an author, photographer, and freelancer. His work has appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and many U.S. newspapers.