Tip of the Day Tuesday: Don’t be scammed by credit card skimmers

In the past few weeks, I have heard similar stories from too many family members and friends.  Basically, they learned that hundreds to thousands of dollars in charges had been made to a credit card, but the credit card was still in their possession.  Most likely, they were all the victims of credit card skimming.  Although credit card skimming has been around for years, the incidents of credit card skimming appear to be increasing quickly.

What is credit card skimming?

In a nutshell, with credit card skimming, thieves typically use a small electronic device to steal your credit card information. They do this by scanning and storing the data contained on the magnetic strip.  Then, they often use this information to create counterfeit cards and the shopping spree beings.

Since we are following the Dave Ramsey plan, we mainly use cash, so I figured we were mainly “safe” but I learned that some of the more common target areas for skimmers are actually places where we still use our debit card:  gas station pumps, ATM machines, and Redbox rental units.  Other target locations include restaurants and grocery stores.

How to spot skimmers

I was surprised to find how easy it is to disguise skimming devices within the card readers of ATM machines and gas station pumps.  Some ATM machines may also contain cameras above the keypad to record your pin number as you enter it or even a fake keypad to record your information.  Even though it might take extra time, I think I might start dealing with tellers either in the branch of through the drive thru from now on!  

Check out this article on Credit Card Skimming:  How Thieves Can Steal Your Card Information Without You Knowing It.  There are some great pictures of various skimming devices.  It’s pretty enlightening!

In addition to keeping an eye out for hidden devices on card readers, you should also make sure that your credit card never leaves your possession.  This can be tricky in a restaurant where the waiter typically leaves with your card to process your payment.  All the waiter has to do is use a small hand-held skimmer and then they have all of your information. 

Make sure you watch your bank statements closely.  If you have online banking, it’s a good idea to monitor your card activity regularly.  You may also want to check with your credit card companies to see what sort of fraud protection they have in place.  Some companies will monitor your accounts and will cut off access if there is suspicious activity.

What to do if you are the victim of credit card skimming (or any credit card threat/fraud)

Contact your bank or credit card company right away ~ Contact your bank or credit card company right away so that they can cancel the card.  By law, you won’t be liable for more than $50 in charges.  If your debit card information was stolen, your bank will cancel the account, but they typically have to wait for any activity to hit your account before they will respond.  Once the fraudulent charges hit your account, they will typically place a credit on your account for the charges.

File a police report ~ Contact the police and file a police report.  Make sure you keep a copy for your records.

Put a freeze on your credit report ~ Contact all three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to put a security hold on your accounts.  This will prevent people from opening new credit accounts using your name and information.  Also make sure you check your credit report to ensure that no new accounts have been opened.