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NYPD Trials New Skimming Detection Device “Skim Reaper”

A computer science professor and two graduate students invented a device used to check ATMs and card readers to detect the presence of a skimming device. Dubbed the Skim Reaper, the New York Police Department has been using a handful of these devices since February to combat card skimming.

Card skimming at ATMs, gas pumps and other locations is a major source of the compromised payment card information used to commit fraud today. Card skimmers install an additional piece of hardware known as a read head to copy a payment card’s data, but a new device was designed to detect their presence, while providing an alert to the ATM user that a card skimmer may be installed.

The device was invented by University of Florida computer sciences professor Patrick Traynor and two graduate students. Earlier this year Traynor gave five of these devices to the NYPD to try. The inventors are now working on bringing down the cost of production for their device, currently at $50, as well as on a more compact consumer-owned version of the device. This would be something consumers could carry in their wallet and insert into an ATM to confirm there is no skimming device present before they insert their debit card.

The NYPD has been using five Skim Reaper devices since February and see the benefits. Interviewed by the Associated Press, the deputy inspector commented that there are just four detectives trained to find card skimmers, and that using these new devices enables untrained officers to test for and identify ATMs with card skimmers.

The device is described as a long credit card that slides into a card reader, with a wire connected to a small receiver and display that will read “Possible skimmer” when multiple read heads are detected.

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