They no longer have to bust out our windows or hold us at gunpoint; thieves have advanced with the times. Many are able to defraud people of their cash in a more sophisticated, dangerous and anonymous way: credit card skimming. Skimming occurs after swiping your credit or debit card through a card reader that has been illegitimately set up to record information from your card’s magnetic stripe. After your information has been obtained, it may be sold to other scammers on the black market, converted into a counterfeit card and/or used to make fraudulent purchases online. For cases involving debit cards, thieves can withdraw cash from the linked checking account. Being educated about this crime will help you avoid becoming a victim of payment card skimming.
We’ve been aware of this type of crime for years but with the frenzied holiday shopping months now upon us, people especially need to be on their guard. Thieves know folks in a hurry tend to quickly swipe their cards at ATM’s, gas pumps and pinpads, then move on with their agendas while never thinking their card’s information may have just been stolen. Being mindful each day that we run the risk of potential payment card fraud, should move us to take the necessary steps to minimize and hopefully prevent becoming blindsided by theft.
Here are some tips to put into use:
Cover and Conceal
Make it a habit to always use your hand and body to cover the keypad when operating a handheld pinpad, or when using an ATM — even when you think you’re alone. This precautionary step not only prevents over-the-shoulder surfers from seeing your personal information, but you are also protected from pinhole cameras that can observe and record your PIN code. Most of us will never even notice a hidden camera installed on the machine, which is pointed straight down at the keypad we’re using. It’s rather scary to know how quickly stolen information can be processed and used. Scammers never need to return to the ATM machine to extract video or card information because many of these skimming devices also have wireless capabilities.
Be Careful at the Pump
Payment card skimming at gas stations has been one of the easiest methods for thieves to steal your information because they can obtain a purchaser’s data with just one swipe of a credit card. Skimming devices are easily hidden and those paying at the pump never see them. They’re simple to add and simple to modify. Like the ATM machines, new card scanners at gas stations utilize Bluetooth technology to transmit the data remotely.
One way of protecting yourself is to choose a pump near the attendant as skimmers prefer to target pumps in the shadows. Another option is to avoid using a debit card if possible: skimmers can quickly drain your account, leaving you high and dry until the bank pays you back. If you payed with a credit card, check your statement carefully. Most credit card companies will take care of any loss if you report it within 60 days. Finally, if you are definitely set on using a payment card, you always have the option of paying for gas inside the station. It’s only a few steps away.
Review and Report
We can’t stress this enough: review your bank and payment card statements on a regular basis. Always watch for suspicious charges and try to save receipts, whether they are paper or online, for several months. If you are a victim of fraud, contact your creditor to let them know about the loss. After the phone conversation, you may want to follow up by putting the incident in writing for them. The maximum liability for charges on a stolen credit card is generally $50 and if it’s just your credit card information that has been stolen, you won’t be liable for any fraudulent charges. It would be wise to place a fraud alert on your credit report as well. This action will force businesses to confirm your identity before approving any applications they receive in your name.
Lastly, we should all be familiar with what scamming devices look like. You can find many varieties of credit card skimming devices if you search in Google Images. Should you spot a suspicious pinpad or payment processing machine, report it immediately. If you are using a bank’s ATM and the bank is still open, notify the manager. When using any machine after hours, notify the local police right away.