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Protect Yourself, LLC’s “Credit Card Skimming, The Facts You Don’t Know” August 2, 2011

Posted by CredZoo - Tame Your Credit in New Credit Information, Tips For Good Credit.
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Written by Michael Gier- http://dailyblogma.com/featured/credit-card-skimming-facts-dont/


You may say that you would never hand your credit card over to a stranger and let them walk away but do you realize that every time you hand your credit card over to your waiter or waitress you’re doing just that.  There’s implied safety because you’re at a legitimate restaurant but you need to realize that your server very well may be a crook.

The same thing applies to anyone you hand your credit card to, a cab driver, a department store employee, a bartender, anyone.

You’ve probably heard about skimming but I’m writing about it because the problem is getting worse and there’s probably a lot on the subject that you don’t know that could create opportunities for thieves.

Skimming is when someone steals the credit card information while you are making a legitimate transaction. It is typically an “inside job” by a dishonest employee of a legitimate merchant. The thief uses a small electronic device, called a skimmer, to swipe and store hundreds of credit card numbers.

Once they download the information onto their computer, they can sell the information on black-market forums; they can purchase things online, or even create new credit cards with your information using blank credit card stock and a credit card encoder.

The crook may have the skimmer attached to the belt around their waist, or lay it next to the cash register and then swipe your card twice, once thru the skimmer and once thru the stores computer system.

Restaurants are high risk because you hand your credit card over to your server and let them walk away with it.  The skimming device is very small and fits in the palm of their hand, or it can be in their sock, or even their apron.  It’s quick and easy for the server to skim your card and collect the data needed.  If they’re working with a partner, they can even skim your card, have it duplicated, and start using the card to make purchases all before you’ve even left the restaurant.

When you pay with a card in Europe, they use pay at the table transaction devices where they bring the apparatus to your table so that your card is never out of your site.  For our safety, American restaurants need to start doing the same thing.  The portable devices are available, we just need them to start using them.

You may think that using an ATM would be safe but, ATM and debit-card fraud is the top area of concern for banks all over the world.  Privately owned ATM’s are the highest risk because a skimming device can easily be added inside the ATM where you can’t see it.  Or if the ATM is in an obscure place it can be easily tampered with.  But even your bank ATM is a risk because crooks add fake card readers, or skimmers, over the real card-entry slot.  When you put your card in the slot it first goes through the skimmer, where the information is collected.  Then they either use a pinhole camera or they attach a keypad overlay to record your PIN number.  To protect yourself, don’t use ATMs.  However, if have to use an ATM then be sure to use your banks ATM machine, check to be sure that a fake card reader or keypad overlay hasn’t been attached, and cover the keypad as you enter your PIN.

Gas pumps are notorious for skimming because they use a universal key allowing thieves to insert a skimming device inside the pump where it can’t be seen.  It’s a big problem everywhere but in a Northern Florida county and also in West Covina, California local law-enforcement officials suggested consumers use only cash to pay for gas after skimming attacks at gas stations surged.  To protect yourself, pay with cash.  If you have to use a card then be sure it’s a credit card and not your debit card.

The national craft store chain “Michael’s” was victim to a recent debit-card skimming scheme where thieves managed to hack the debit-processing equipment at 80 locations in 20 states.  They were able to instantly duplicate customers’ cards and begin making cash withdrawals.  The chain won’t give details on how it happened but they replaced all of their debit-processing equipment so it appears that the skimming device was added to the inside of the equipment where it wasn’t detectable.

Credit and debit card skimming is getting much worse here in the United States.  Currently, you have a one-in-five chance of being a victim, and this trend is continuing up because there is a migration of fraud from Europe here to the US.

Most countries have converted, or they’re in the process of converting, to using smart cards.  They don’t use magnetic-stripe technology on the back of the cards anymore like we do.  Instead, they use a card that relies on an embedded micro-chip for the storage of data.

Now that the cards in Europe are protected, criminals are increasingly targeting U.S. cardholders.  Although all types of cards are at risk, crooks more often target debit card holders.

Credit-card thieves use your card to purchase merchandise and then resell that merchandise so they can get cash.  However, debit card thieves get cash without the hassle of buying and selling merchandise.  So you can see why that’s more appealing.

By choice and sometimes by necessity, American consumers are increasingly relying on debit rather than credit cards.  As they use their debit cards and thieves continue to target debit card users, those consumers have a very high chance of becoming a victim.

When someone steals and uses your credit card, charges are made but no money comes out of your account.  When you get the statement you can call the credit card company and report the misuse and dispute the charges.  When you use a debit card, the money is immediately taken from your checking account and if you become a victim it can take as long as 30 days, and sometimes even longer for that money to get returned to you.  If you have no other money source, this can cause financial hardships and havoc in your life.

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself:

The best thing you can do is always pay with cash.  This alleviates all risk.  The next option would be to use your credit card because you can check your statement each month and dispute charges you haven’t made.  NEVER pay using your debit card.  If you do, thieves can easily clean out your account because the money is taken out right away.

If you must use a debit card, then create a checking account just for debit card use and then have the majority of your money in a different checking or savings account.  Just realize that any money that you have in that debit card account is at risk so only add what you are able to live without for a while if it is stolen.

Then when you use that debit card, always choose the screen prompt that identifies it as a credit card so that you do not have to type in your PIN.  The purchase amount will still be immediately deducted from your bank account, but it will be processed through a credit-card network, which will give you greater protection from liability if fraud does occur.

If for some reason you need to use you PIN, always cover the keypad with your other hand and your body so that no one, including small cameras, can get your PIN.

It’s a good idea to go online and check your bank and credit card transactions weekly, however, if you won’t do that then be sure that you at least check your statements once each month to spot and report any unauthorized credit or debit transactions as quickly as possible.

If your card is lost or stolen, you’ll usually get most of your money back, but only if you report it right away.  That’s why it’s important to monitor your credit card and bank accounts so that you’ll notice the problem and be able to report it right away.

If you’re going to give your card to anyone, be sure to keep an eye on what they do with it.

At restaurants, if you’re paying with a debit card and they need to take the card away from you, then go with them so that you can keep an eye on it.

Last, talk to restaurant owners and managers and encourage them to use pay at the table transaction devices where they bring the apparatus to you so that your card is never out of site.

Copyright © 2011 / Protect Yourself, LLC
Credit Card Skimming, The Facts You Don’t Know

Michael Gier

Michael Gier is a fraud prevention expert and the host of Protect Yourself TV, an internet TV show educating people on the day to day activities that put them at risk: http://www.ProtectYourself.tv. Michael Gier is a professional public speaker available for speaking events, the co-author of “Keeping A Lock On Your Identity – How To Keep What Is Rightfully Yours,” and is available to the media for television, radio, and newspaper interviews.

The Top 5 Tips For Good Credit March 15, 2011

Posted by CredZoo - Tame Your Credit in About CredZoo, Tips For Good Credit.
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Blogger Todd Ossenfort has been known as “The Credit Guy” for the past three years. Now he’s hanging up his mouse and keyboard and leaving his readers with his top 5 tips for good credit. We’d like to share them with you here!

1. Saving is essential to avoid unwanted and often problem debt. If you don’t have an emergency savings account of six to 12 months of income saved, start today. Save whatever amount you can regularly (each pay period) even if it is only $25. As you get in the habit of saving, increase the amount as you can afford to do so. Save something every month, even if you are struggling to pay down debt.

2. Never co-sign, especially for a family member. Generally speaking, if a lender is not willing to loan money to someone, you shouldn’t either. Co-signing for a loan or credit card for another person is a great way to ruin a valuable relationship — and your own credit. If the person can’t or won’t make payments, your credit will suffer and you will be held responsible for paying.

3. Check your credit report annually. Place a reminder on your calendar and get your free credit report each year.  Reviewing your credit report at least annually will help detect identity theft early. It’ll also help insure there aren’t any inaccurate entries on your report. When you work with CredZoo, this is done for you. One less item to worry about! CredZoo has a free credit report analysis. We can look at your reports and see if we can help you before you sign up.

4. Avoid using credit to extend your income. Living within your means is key to avoiding large credit card debt. If you are using credit each month to pay for essentials, you need to take a hard look at your monthly spending and make cuts to bring your spending in line with your income. Simple budgeting 101.

5. Know your rights when dealing with collectors and use bankruptcy protection when it is needed — and only if it is needed. Learn your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and keep collectors from intimidating you into promises you can’t afford to keep.

One of the rights you are given under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is to challenge inaccurate, misleading and obsolete items appearing on your credit report. CredZoo uses every venue available under the law to help you assert these rights. Disputing items on your credit report is your legal right. When you use CredZoo to help repair your credit, we are abiding by and using all federal and regional laws regulating third party credit repair assistance.

Contacts us today for more information on any of these 5 tips or to learn more about CredZoo’s services and the FCRA: 1-888-881-5333

10 Ways to Combat Peer Pressure to Spend March 11, 2011

Posted by CredZoo - Tame Your Credit in Tips For Good Credit.
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by Logan Sachon, for Bundle

You love your friends, and your friends love to spend money. They spend money on new clothes that put yours to shame, on expensive presents for your birthday, on fancy bottles of wine for your dinner party, on drinks for the table at the bar. The pressure to reciprocate — and keep up — can be intense. But don’t fear: just because you have high-rolling friends doesn’t mean your bank account is in jeopardy. Big spenders and little spenders can indeed be friends, but it requires some finesse so you aren’t always feeling poor and they aren’t always feeling bad because you’re poor. We’ve got ten way to keep your spend-happy friends close and your wallet closed.

1. Tell yourself: Own it

Do not covet your neighbor’s phone (or his car, or his fancy MacBook). Instead, embrace your old-school flip phone, your car-less lifestyle, your two-inch-thick Dell laptop. Having new things sure would be nice, but you don’t need them; don’t let your gear-toting friends make you think you do. Your things aren’t old and crusty — they’re old and trusty. Own your own stuff.

2. Tell yourself: A bottle of wine is a bottle of wine

Just because your friend brings a $20 bottle of wine to your dinner party doesn’t mean you have to stray from your $3 Trader Joe’s standard when he’s hosting. Get the cheap stuff. It’s okay.

3. Tell yourself: It really is the thought that counts

If your friend buys you a massage for your birthday, do you have to reciprocate in kind come hers? You do not. Sweetness need not have a price tag. Flowers from your garden, a homemade cake, a thoughtful book: these are all fine presents.

4. Tell your friends: You’re coming down with something

The price of dinner doubles when you add booze, and ordering just one drink is a dangerous move: it’s too easy to order another one. Nip that temptation in the bud by not drinking with dinner, and nip your friends’ pressure on you to drink with dinner by saying you’re sick. And no, friends, margaritas do not kill germs.

5. Tell your friends: You’ve only got cash

At the bar, it’s so easy to tell the table, “I’ve got this.” You don’t have this, because you don’t have your card. All you have is cash, and you only have enough for your own drink. We’ve all left our debit card at home on accident before. You should leave yours there on purpose.

6. Tell your friends: You’re saving for something big

Your friends don’t want to hear that you’re trying to be more frugal — it calls attention to the fact that they are anything but and that’s no fun. But you know what is fun? Vacations. You’re not skipping the $20-a-head concert because you can’t afford it. That sounds icky. You’re skipping the $20-a-head concert because you’re saving for Maui. Much better.

7. Tell yourself: Your friends like you for you, not your money

Remember that your friends are your friends because they like you and you like them: the exchange of money or goods isn’t a part of the equation. If you pick up the bar tab, that’s a nice perk, but it’s not what keeps your friends around. They will like you even if you split the check.

8. Tell your friends: You’re bored with going out

You’re not suggesting a game night at home because you’re broke. You’re suggesting a game night at home because the bar scene is tired. At your house it’s cozier, the music is better, and there’s no line for a beer.

9. Tell your friends: You already ate

Don’t skip your friend’s birthday dinner because it’s at a restaurant you can’t afford, but don’t go and order nothing. Eat beforehand, own up to it, and order a $10 dessert when everyone else is ordering $30 entrees. You’ll have the best plate at the table, and your friends won’t feel uncomfortable by you not eating.

10. Tell yourself: There is nothing wrong with staying home sometimes

If you really can’t spend money right now, don’t put yourself in situations where you can spend money. Going to the bar and not ordering anything while your friends keep the cocktails coming is hard. Not going to the bar while your friends are there and keeping the cocktails coming is also hard, but less so. Catch up on your reading (or last week’s episode of Gossip Girl).