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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.

5 Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft While On Vacation June 8, 2011

Posted by CredZoo - Tame Your Credit in Tips For Good Credit.
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Contributed By: Kai Todd in: Identity Theft

The threat of identity theft never goes away — even on vacation. This year while taking time to relax, remember to follow these identity theft tips to avoid an unpleasant surprise when you get back home.

Tip #1 — Stop Your Mail

Thieves love your mail. Finding mailboxes stuffed while homeowners are away vacationing is like a dream come true for identity thieves. With the information found in your mailbox from everything from bills to credit card offers, thieves can piece together enough info about you to steal your identity.

Your first step to avoid identity theft while you’re on vacation is to have a neighbor pick up your mail or put a ‘stop’ on it at your post office.

Tip #2 — Beware of WiFi Hotspots

Most people take along a laptop while on vacation either to spend some leisurely time surfing the net or to keep in touch with family while they’re away from home. But before you go online, you need to be aware that most WiFi hotspots are unsecured and unencrypted. This means that others can see what you’re doing online. Go online only if you’re sure your connection is protected.

Tip #3 — Choose Your ATMs Carefully

Vacationers are carefree and having fun — the way they should be. Thieves know this and take the opportunity to steal your money or identity while you’re distracted. One of the most common places they do this is at ATMs.

You’re distracted. The kids see something fun they want to do. You run to the nearest ATM to get some money. This convenient ATMs are where thieves plant skimmers that can steal your information in a matter of seconds.

To avoid this from happening, go to ATMs at banks or credit unions. These ATMs are monitored and safer than those found in shopping malls or convenience stores.

Tip #4 — Take Stock of Your Wallet

In the event that you lose your wallet or purse or is stolen, the first thing a thief is going to go for is your personal information. Before you leave home make a copy of everything you keep in your purse or wallet: credit cards, social security card, driver’s license, insurance card, etc.

This way, if you do lose your information, you know exactly what you’ve lost and can cancel all cards immediately.

Remember it’s never smart to carry your social security card in your wallet. Leave it locked up at home. If you’re traveling with a spouse, it’s best if you each have a credit card. If one card is disabled or damaged, you’ll still have access to credit.

Tip #5 — Don’t Be to Sociable

Everybody is on some social network or another these days. You might be excited about leaving for vacation, but don’t post it on Facebook, MySpace or any other networking site. Thieves troll these areas to see when people are away from home and possibly break into their home while they’re away.

Vacationing should be a fun time — not a time spent worrying about theft. By following these tips, you’ll be able to relax knowing you’ve done your best to prevent identity theft.