Identity thieves are making use of new technology, in the form of pocket-sized scanners, to grab the information right off consumers’ credit cards.
The website commercialappeal.com reports that the American ATM Association has officially defined skimming as “the unauthorized capture of magnetic stripe information by modifying the hardware or software of a payment device, or through the use of a separate card reader.” Skimming can be done to both debit and credit cards, with equipment that can be easily obtained over the Internet. All it requires is a little illicit technology and a lot of criminal intent. It occurs most frequently at retail outlets, bars, restaurants, ATM machines, and gas stations.
How Skimming Works:
A criminal swipes the customer’s credit card with a small handheld electronic device that scans and stores your card data from a magnetic strip and also, in some cases, the corresponding PIN number. Those details are then transferred from the skimming device onto counterfeit cards, which can be used to run up fraudulent charges on the original cardholder’s account. Once the information is obtained the criminals go on a shopping spree with a copy of your credit or debit card. Most of the time card holders are not aware of the activity until their bank calls them or a statement arrives with the purchases in the mail.
In most cases, crooks outfit the card readers at ATM’s and gas pumps with a device that fits over the card reader. After that, when a customer swipes her bank card, gas card, or other type of plastic, the skimming apparatus captures the information on its magnetic strip. That information is either transmitted to the thieves in real time or stored away on the device, which the crooks will retrieve later.
On ATM machines, there is also often a hidden camera positioned to record the customer’s PIN code, during the course of a transaction, when the person punches it into the keypad on the machine. At restaurants, bars, and retail locations, a dishonest server or clerk will run a card through a small, handheld skimming device that captures and saves the card information contained in the magnetic stripe.
How to avoid skimming:
- Make sure your card stays in sight. If you are in a retail store and they say they have to go to another counter to run the card, follow them. If you are concerned about letting go of your card at restaurants, use cash instead.
- When paying at the pump or getting money out of your ATM, if the card reader doesn’t look right use another pump or atm it could have a skimmer on it.
- If an ATM machine doesn’t look right to you, you can literally tug on the card slot to see if it’s lose. Crooks often install their skimming devices right over the real one, and many consumers have had them come off right in their hands.
- If something seems amiss with the equipment, or a stranger seems to be monitoring activity at the machine, consumers are strongly urged to walk away and report any suspicions to either a law enforcement officer or to the company that is operating the machine
- When entering a PIN number during the course of an ATM transaction, consumers should stand with their bodies close to the machine and shield the keypad with their free hand while punching in the number. This is to obstruct any view a camera or person may have of the keypad.
- Regularly check account statements for any unauthorized activity.
- If business owners see someone messing with their credit card readers they need to check the device right away.
How do deal with skimming:
- Call the police. When your identity or credit card is stolen, it’s just like having a car stolen. Make a police report and hang on to the police report number.
- Contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately and tell them your card was stolen. If you don’t make a report quickly, you may be liable for some or all of the unauthorized charges.
- If you report swiftly, federal law caps your liability at $50. Most credit cards voluntarily go further, and won’t charge you at all — again, if you report quickly. Don’t get hung up about the fact that someone might drain your bank account. The most you will probably spend on it is wasted time and lots of aggravation, since it can be a long process to get everything worked out.”
- Contact the three major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — to request a security freeze, which prevents new credit authorizations without your consent.
What are business owners doing about this?
The Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing released a statement back in August which addressed and outlined the ongoing problems skimming has been causing retailers. They introduced a “We Care” decal, and detailed its benefits for stores and their customers:
The security labels are to be used on fuel dispensers near the credit/debit card transaction area. If the label is lifted to insert a skimming device, a “void” message appears on the label, providing a visual alert to store employees so that additional action can be taken.
If you would like more information about preventing identity theft at your business talk to your safety coordinator or call American Fire & Security at 937.262.7937.
The Security Girl