Checkout Skimmers Powered by Chip Cards

Easily the most sophisticated skimming devices made for hacking terminals at retail self-checkout lanes are a new breed of PIN pad overlay combined with a flexible, paper-thin device that fits inside the terminal’s chip reader slot. What enables these skimmers to be so slim? They draw their power from the low-voltage current that gets triggered when a chip-based card is inserted. As a result, they do not require external batteries, and can remain in operation indefinitely.

A point-of-sale skimming device that consists of a PIN pad overlay (top) and a smart card skimmer (a.k.a. “shimmer”). The entire device folds onto itself, with the bottom end of the flexible card shimmer fed into the mouth of the chip card acceptance slot.

The overlay skimming device pictured above consists of two main components. The one on top is a regular PIN pad overlay designed to record keypresses when a customer enters their debit card PIN. The overlay includes a microcontroller and a small data storage unit (bottom left).

The second component, which is wired to the overlay skimmer, is a flexible card skimmer (often called a “shimmer”) that gets fed into the mouth of the chip card acceptance slot. You’ll notice neither device contains a battery, because there simply isn’t enough space to accommodate one.

Virtually all payment card terminals at self-checkout lanes now accept (if not also require) cards with a chip to be inserted into the machine. When a chip card is inserted, the terminal reads the data stored on the smart card by sending an electric current through the chip.

Incredibly, this skimming apparatus is able to siphon a small amount of that power (a few milliamps) to record any data trans ..