Skim Reaper is NYPD's possible solution to ATM card skimming

The New York Police Department is testing a new tool called the Skim Reaper that may help prevent ATM-based credit card fraud. Card skimmers are a growing problem impacting people around the world; the scam works by placing a physical skimmer on an ATM, then retrieving it later after numerous cards have passed through it. The same devices can be placed on gas pumps and other terminals.

Skim Reaper was developed by cybersecurity expert Patrick Traynor, according to AP, as well as a pair of grad students from Florida. The device features a long, thin card-like component attached to a larger based with a display. To detect whether an ATM or gas pump terminal has been compromised, someone simply inserts Skim Reaper into the card slot and then removes it.

The system is so simple that it doesn't require training, adding to the appeal for departments like the NYPD. Such a testing method is arguably vital at a time when skimming tech can be disguised to blend seamlessly with an existing ATM interface. The NYPD reports some element of success using Skim Reaper.

Skim Reaper is able to detect whether a system has been compromised by looking for more than one read head. A normal ATM or gas pump will only have one read head, so the presence of a second one indicates someone has compromised the system to skim credit card data as the cards are inserted. Most of the time, these compromised machines function normally.

Card skimming has a huge impact on consumers every year, with the US Secret Service estimating that more than $1 billion are stolen annually. That money often makes its way into organized crime, helping fund a variety of illegal activities. Whether the NYPD will ultimately decide to adopt the technology as a regular tool hasn't yet been determined.

SOURCE: Associated Press