One of the most serious threats to your finances today is called credit card skimming. This is a situation where a machine is used to read your card information and record your pin while you’re using your card with a reliable business. These devices are found largely in service stations where credit and debit cards are used to purchase gas, snacks, and auto supplies. Fraud artists attach a machine called an electronic skimmer to the gasoline pump that does not only read your credit card number but your pin number as well, while the owner remains none-the-wiser.
Needless to say, this opens a can of worms regarding your personal finances. By using the card and pin number gleaned from this device, false identification cards can be quickly issued, allowing perpetrators to obtain information regarding your bank account, as well as your personal information that can be used to make other types of transactions possible. These crooks work fast and have been known to strip bank accounts of thousands of dollars in just one day. In addition to that, they can issue checks, make countless purchases, and create new lines of credit. In general, they can cause financial catastrophe in your name. Unfortunately, once this happens, it often takes months or even years to straighten things out.
Unfortunately, there is no way to determine when a skimmer is in use. Here’s a story from a local newspaper in Lawrenceville, GA where this happened and the police are now asking for help to resolve the problem.
If you’ve dined at Footprints Cafe and paid with a debit or credit card, Lawrenceville Police are asking you to double check your statements. Over the weekend, police arrested Laura-Grace Tanis, a waitress at the restaurant. According to a police report, Tanis used a portable electronic skimmer to capture information from customers’ credit cards. She was charged with Financial Credit Card Theft and Criminal Possession of a Financial Transaction Card Forgery Device. Tanis has only been charged with one count so far, but Lawrenceville police are looking into whether this was an isolated incident or was part of a larger operation. Investigators are following leads that may show it was in fact a more extensive network of people involved in the card skimming scheme. If you should find something amiss, please contact Lawrenceville Police Detectives at (770) 963-2443.
In June the FBI arrested 24 credit card hackers which included two dozen people in 13 countries. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. In order to protect your credit and identity, the FBI recommends individuals stay alert and follow some simple rules:
• Keep your credit cards in sight at all times. Unfortunately, this alone will not work where a gas pump is ‘rigged’ with one of these devices. Restaurants are also where this frequently occurs. An answer to this concern is to pay cash.
• Always monitor your receipts against your statements as well as carefully check the receipt when paying to make sure there are no additional charges that were not authorized.
• Shred all papers that involve any financial solicitations or reports that are not kept and filed in a secure location.
If you find you have been scammed you should:
• Notify the police and retain the report number.
• Notify your credit card company and bank immediately and request all account numbers be changed. Under federal law you can only be held liable for $50 of unauthorized charges.
• Inform the three major credit bureaus so that they can notify any company requesting credit information. A good place to visit is www.annualcreditreport.com. A federal law established this site to provide free annual credit reports as well as monitor this type of theft and provide a place where people can report any suspicious activity on their accounts.
In this era of economic distress and increased electronic use, the FBI Cyber Crimes Unit has documented an increase in all types of scams that include the use of illegal electronic skimmers. This makes it important that consumers remain alert at all times.