We are living in the age where making purchases with cash is nearly extinct. More often than not, consumers are using a credit or debit card to make purchases and are relying on ATMs rather than visiting their banks to get cash.
Although card technology has provided the freedom to bank whenever and wherever, there is a down side. Credit, debit and ATM card fraud is on the rise and high-tech thieves are using devices called “skimmers” to steal card information that can be used to make counterfeit cards or be sold to other criminals. Do we have your attention? Here’s how it works and how you can protect yourself.
A skimmers is a device placed over an existing card reader capturing information stored in the magnetic strip on the back of a credit, debit or ATM card: account number, name, expiration date, country code, card limit (if any). Thieves may also include the use of fake pin pads and cameras to capture additional information.
Gas pumps, free-standing ATMs, and retail checkout stations are prime targets for thieves. The number of ATMs altered by skimmers increased by 546% from 2014 to 2015 according to FICO® Card Alert Service, a California company that monitors transactions at hundreds of thousands of ATMs across the United States.
Skimming is happening globally–even in Maine–and it’s a growing problem. Skimming devices are being detected and removed quickly; however, thieves are continuously finding advanced ways to hack card information. Here are some skimming awareness tips shared in an article published by the FBI, entitled Taking a Trip to the ATM:
* Inspect the ATM, gas pump, or credit card reader before using it…be suspicious if you see anything loose, crooked, or damaged, or if you notice scratches or adhesive/tape residue.
* When entering your PIN, block the keypad with your other hand to prevent possible hidden cameras from recording your number.
* If possible, use an ATM at an inside location (less access for criminals to install skimmers).
* Be careful of ATMs in tourist areas…they are a popular targets of skimmers.
* If your card isn’t returned after the transaction or after hitting “cancel,” immediately contact the financial institution that issued the card.
The rollout of EMV chip cards offers another layer of protection as it discourages skimming. However, with its recent adoption in the U.S., many merchants are not yet equipped to read these chips, forcing you to swipe your card which exposes your magnetic strip and its information.
Review account statements monthly and consider utilizing electronic methods to review transactions online or from a mobile device. If you find questionable transactions, contact your bank immediately. Knowledge is power. Creating consumer awareness is one way we can discourage fraud and protect ourselves. Take a moment to share these tips with your kids, parents, neighbors, and elder community. They will be happy you did.