Beware of Skimming Fraud
Recently, there has been an increased rate of debit card fraud, in particular "skimming at self serve gas pumps". Skimming has been described as one of the most significant problems facing the credit card industry, as it can happen anywhere a credit card is accepted. The best way for consumers to protect themselves from skimming is by paying attention to the details of credit card usage. When a credit card is skimmed, data on the card, including the account number, is electronically transmitted or stored. The credit card information can then be encoded onto a lost, stolen, or counterfeit credit card and used anywhere in the world. Since there are legitimate uses for many of the devices used to read or skim credit cards, paying attention to where you use your credit cards can also help prevent fraud.
Examples of skimming instances include:
- Gas stations are particularly vulnerable to skimming as their devices are out in the open and often not under surveleance
- A skimming device is added to the front of an ATM or gas pump and captures the credit card information as the consumer attempts to use the machine.
- A skimming device is added inside an ATM or gas pump and captures information during a valid transaction. In many cases a covert camera is also set up to capture the card holder’s personal identification (PIN) number.
- A collusive store employee completes a valid sale, and then captures a second (unauthorized) swipe covertly on a portable device before returning the card to the cardholder.
To protect against these instances of skimming, the Secret Service advises consumers to pay attention to their cards at the point of sale.
- Ensure your credit card is swiped only once at a register.
- Conceal your PIN as you enter it into an ATM or credit card reader.
The U.S. Secret Service was originally founded in 1865 for the purpose of suppressing the counterfeiting of U.S. currency. Over the years it has grown into one of the premier law enforcement organizations charged with investigating financial crimes. The agency has taken a lead role in the emerging arena of cyber crime, establishing partnerships with the public and private sectors to address such issues as protection of critical infrastructure, Internet intrusions and associated fraud.
If you suspect you may be a possible victim of skimming or other financial fraud, contact local police and/or local U.S. Secret Service field office.
Things to Remember
- Never let your card out of your sight. It is easy for someone to conceal a skimming device on their person and take your card information when they are out of sight.
- Inspect ATMs and Gas Pumps before using them. Criminals will put skimming devices on top of or inside card readers in order to obtain your card information.
- Protect your PIN; memorize it, don’t keep it with your card, and conceal it when you enter it on a PIN pad.
- Use a PIN that is difficult to guess. Don’t use your date of birth, address, or zip code. If skimmers get your card number, it is much easier to use that information for fraudulent transactions if they can guess your PIN.
- Never use public WiFi for viewing online banking, or shopping. If a WiFi network is not password protected, anyone can potentially view the information that is sent back and forth on it.
- Make sure the make sure your antivirus and anti-spyware software is kept up to date. Malicious software inadvertently downloaded onto your computer can gather information and relay it back to individuals intending to use that information for fraudulent purposes.
- Only shop online at websites you know you can trust. If a deal looks too good to be true, it usually is. These can be the bait to get you to share your card information with a less than reputable company in order to conduct fraudulent transactions.
- Even if you do everything you can to prevent it, sometimes fraud still happens. Always know how much you have in your account and verify that the transactions that have cleared are yours by using online banking and checking it on a consistent basis. When debit card fraud is caught early you can usually get your money back.