Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Weekly Tip - Watch for Card Skimming

Card skimming involves the unauthorized copying of electronic data from your debit card or credit card. Thieves will use hidden equipment, such as pin-hole cameras and card reading devices to obtain your PIN and card data. The stolen data is then encoded onto a counterfeit card, which is used to withdraw funds or make purchases without your knowledge.

This type of crime can occur anywhere, but most commonly occurs at gas stations, ATM machines, or restaurants. Gas pump and ATM machines can be tampered with and thieves will place devices that resemble the actual equipment on the machine in order to read your card as it is used. Restaurants are used by suspects who carry handheld skimming devices to trap credit and debit card magnetic information. The suspect may be the server of your table. Some restaurants have actually gone to use of portable card readers so that the transaction can be performed at your table, directly in front of you. This type of device helps to secure the transaction for your protection.

There are many resources on the web that give you information on this type of theft and fraud. Read the Wikipedia entry on the topic and it will give you some insight and topics to query. Here is another link to a helpful website, "Bustathief", where they actually have photos of modified ATM machines and what to look for to prevent your information from being taken.

Some quick prevention tips:
  • Keep your cards in sight. If the sales clerk moves to a different register, accompany them. This may be difficult at a restaurant but you may consider asking to pay at the register.
  • Pay attention to the number of times your card is swiped and make sure that any transaction that is not the actual sale is voided.
  • Use the credit option as opposed to entering your PIN.
  • Check the machine for any loose or unusual "reader" or equipment. Immediately report any tampered machine or out of order machine to the bank or business.
  • Do not accept "assistance" from a good Samaritan at an ATM. If the machine does not properly work, move on!
  • Use ATM machines inside the bank or business, visible and open to the public.
  • Check your bank records and statements often. Look for unusual or unauthorized activity.
  • Report any lost or stolen cards immediately.
  • If you see anything or anyone suspicious near an ATM machine, call the local police!

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