On average one in 20 people in the US fall victim to some sort of identity or financial theft. One growing avenue of theft from consumers is at the ATM and gas pump. No not necessarily by the banks or petrol industry but by credit card skimming devices hacking data from swiped debit and credit cards.
Criminals have gone high-tech, abandoning the less than sophisticated old-school mugging with a gun and the threat of significant jail time, for the quick and easy multimillion dollar business of skimming.
Unsuspecting plastic-dependent patrons swipe their card through, what they assume is a legitimate scanner, without a second thought as to the millions stolen annually, an estimated $18 million in 2011. They assume so long as their card is still within their possession they are immune from larceny. Instead, difficult to track criminals are bleeding their financial accounts dry. Most people don’t detect they’ve been victimized until it’s too late.
Faux scanning machines can be crudely assembled from molded plastic and metal card readers placed overtop a bank’s ATM or gas pump card slot. They’re used to record information from the strips along the back of cards. Simulated scanners, made virtually undetectable or distinguishable as facsimiles by consumers, are appearing in greater numbers. In order to capture pin numbers, criminals will augment the facade of an ATM with a pinhole camera, or place it nearby with a vantage view of the keypad.
Creditcard.com recommends frequently checking bank and credit card statements. Set email and text alerts with charge limits. If an abnormality is detected, contact both the credit card company and bank and have it canceled, as well as the three credit bureaus to flag your credit report as a precaution. The sooner you report the irregularities, the less likely the legitimate card holder is hit in liability.
[Image via Shutterstock]