Fraud Alert - Card Skimming
Fraud is everywhere. Criminals are getting more and more sophisticated about their attacks and ways to get your personal information. While not overly sophisticated, card skimming is still proving an effective way criminals are obtaining your credit or debit card information.
What is card skimming?
It is when criminals obtain your debit or credit card information by using devices that are small, easily portable, and hard to detect. The devices create an illegal copy of your card (“cloning”). With a copy of card information, criminals are free to charge items to your card. Or they may sell that information to others to do the same.
How does this happen?
Most common areas that card skimming may occur is from criminals placing the skimming devices on ATM machines or sales terminals such as gas pumps. Card skimmers fit over the original card readers and/or place keypad overlays directly on top of factory-installed keypads. As you insert your card or type in your pin number, the devices store that information. After a while, the criminals return to these areas and remove the devices which now have your information. Common fraud rings have often targeted geographical locations such as putting the skimming devices at various gas stations. Once they finish their loop after a couple weeks, they return to the start and pick up the devices. This way they can cover a large area in a short amount of time, not raising much suspicion.
How can you protect yourself from card skimming?
For ATMs, use the ATM located at your bank. ATMs located at banks are regularly checked by bank employees for skimming devices. ATMs located at nonbank locations such as convenience stores are more likely to be targeted. Another way to check if a skimmer is being used is to check if the colors and materials match the ATM or sales terminal. See if an extra piece of plastic was added, if it appears bulkier than normal, pieces wiggle or are loose. These can be signs of skimming devices. At gas stations, always look for the security tape over the cabinet. If the tape has been broken – choose a different pump. Finally, a simple but effective way to test is to pull on the insert area. Tug firmly a couple times on the card reader and if it comes out, then it is likely a card skimmer. The Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice has illustrated examples of how subtle some of these devices can appear on machines (FTC-Skimmer Illustrations).
What happens if I use my card on a skimming device?
As with any fraudulent situation, report the activity as soon as possible to the number listed on the back of your debit or credit card. Inform the place of business of the issue so no one else will fall victim. Additionally, continue to monitor your card activity for any suspicious activity after the fact. Depending upon the skimmer, if you found it before the criminals removed it, then you may be ok. However, sophisticated skimmers may have the capability to transit the information electronically. We’ll cover more actions to take if fraud has occurred to you in other articles.