The bad guys are getting more innovative and creative with their efforts to steal your money.

We reported Tuesday on the rise of ATM skimmer thefts in New Jersey, which includes a rash of incidents in Middlesex County.

Authorities and experts are warning consumers and card users to be on the lookout to avoid being the latest victims of this growing scam.

"They have so much to gain financially when these things do work, so people really need to be diligent," said Matt Schulz, Creditcards.com Senior Industry Analyst.

There are number of ways that skimmer scammers are trying to gain access to your bank account, some detectable and some not.

  • By dropping skimmers inside the machine;
  • Placing a fake slot over ATM's or gas pumps;
  • Using handheld devices, often in restaurants, to swipe your card and get your information; and
  • Setting up tiny cameras at ATM's to try and pick up your sensitive data.

Schulz said to be vigilant when using one of these machines and to not be afraid to touch around, especially if something looks suspect.

"Wiggle some things around and if something moves more than you think it should, that might be an indication," he said. "Be aware if anything looks weird or off at the ATM or at gas pump."

He said there are many steps people can take to protect themselves from skimmers.

  • Using machines in well-lit areas;
  • Shopping at places that you know and trust;
  • Placing your hand over the keypad and covering up when typing in your pin number;
  • Swiping your card quickly;
  • Using cash for gas purchases;
  • Using credit cards, and not debit cards for gas and other purchases, since it can limit the damage done; and
  • Check your online statements and credit reports regularly to ensure you have not been compromised.

"All of these things can help indicate whether you have been a victim of a skimmer because, otherwise, you just might not know," Schulz said. "Your best tool against skimmers is to just keep your eyes open and be aware of what's around you."

Dan Alexander contributed to this report.

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