Mark Pribish

Don't get ripped off by credit card skimming

By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

When you swipe your credit or debit card, there is always a risk of giving ID-theft criminals what they need to steal your money through what is known as "skimming."

Criminals install electronic devices at locations at which we use cards, such as an ATM, a grocery store or a gas pump. As you use your card for valid transactions, the device copies your credit or debit account information in the magnetic strip on the back of your card. This is skimming.

Recent news reports have shown that ID theft criminals are installing card skimmers at bank ATMs and point-of-sale terminals. They deliver an opportunity to conduct illegal transactions - in your name, from your accounts.

The prize that ID-theft criminals value most is capturing debit card data complete with personal identification numbers. This allows them to make counterfeit cards to withdraw cash directly from your bank accounts at ATMs.

That said, credit and debit card transactions continue to be a big target for ID theft criminals. These four types of skimming fraud lead the way:

  • Pay-at-the-pump skimming. Devices are secretly placed inside the gas pump. Often these devices include a small video camera that records you as you enter your PIN or billing ZIP code. To make matters worse, currently there are approximately four universal keys that open the majority of gas pumps in the US. Criminals are aware of this and often duplicate these keys to install the skimmers.
  • ATM skimming. Unlike gas pumps, financial institution ATMs require unique keys and codes. However, law enforcement has documented multiple methods of ATM skimming where criminals replace PIN pads on ATMs with manipulated devices that collect card details and PINs as customers use their cards.
  • Point-of-sale skimming. POS skimming may occur at retail stores where customers swipe their credit/debit cards using point-of-sale terminals. If tampered with by ID theft criminals, the skimmer can record all information for every credit and debit card processed through the card reader.
  • Magnetic-card reader skimming. This occurs when your card is out of your sight, such as at a restaurant or in a drive-through, as a dishonest employee can swipe your card through a card reader that stores the information from the magnetic strip, allowing for the creation of a fraudulent credit/debit card.

Here are recommendations to reduce the risk of being a skimming victim:

  • Never allow your debit card to be swiped away from your view.
  • Cover PIN and ZIP code entries when in public.
  • When using a debit card, do not type in your PIN; instead, select the credit option as consumers have greater protection under credit card transaction laws.

To conclude, be aware that skimming is happening, and do your part to reduce the chances that you'll become a victim.


To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.


Court Summons Scam Emails Carry Malware

It's back! Some scams crop up repeatedly, each time with a different twist. With a convincing new email template, these fake law firm notices claim you are being summoned to appear in court. But the attached "court notice" is actually malware.

How the Scam Works:

You receive an email with the subject line "Notice to appear in court No#XXX." It looks official and appears to be from a law firm called "Green Winick." The message says that you must attend a court hearing, but it doesn't provide any details.

Want to know why and when you are being summoned? The email urges you to download the attached "court notice" to find out. The email reads: "To view copy of the court notice click here. Please, read it thoroughly. Note: If you do not attend the hearing the judge may hear the case in your absence." Don't do it! The file is malware, which can infect your computer and hunt for personal and banking information.

How to Spot this Scam:

  • Be skeptical of email. Courts do not typically summon people via email, text message or phone. Unless you are involved in a case and have opted into receiving email communications, courts normally communicate through mail.
  • Pick up the phone. If you ever question whether you need to appear in court, call the court system or attorney's office to check. Search for the phone number on the web; don't call a number in the email.
  • Beware of variations. Watch out for different law firm names and twists on the scam. A similar con tells victims that they missed or are being summoned for jury duty.
  • Ignore calls for immediate action. Scammers try to get you to act before you think by creating a sense of urgency. Don't fall for it.

For More Information

To find out more about scams or report one, check out BBB Scam Stopper.

Note: Thanks to the Better Business Bureau of Louisville, Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana for their reporting on this scam.

Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau - for more information visit http://www.bbb.org/phoenix/news-events/

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.