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Tech Bytes; Card Skimming


By Mitchell Walbridge

Fri, May 31st, 2013
Posted in All Columnists

Last week at our Journal office we were talking about credit card scams and how common they are in today’s society. We’re pretty much over the up-front face-to-face robbery phase as it’s less work and more convenient for scammers to go digital.

Today, we all enjoy the modern conveniences of online banking, paying at the pump for our gas, and access to an ATM at almost every bank and convenience store. But with these conveniences also come more chances for others to help themselves to your money.

So how do they do it? Many utilize card skimmers, a connecting device that attaches to the location on a machine where your credit or debit cards are inserted. After customers are done using various machines, the mastermind behind the theft operation then removes the skimmer, which then would contain data from one or several people’s cards.

As time has progressed, card skimmers have advanced to the point that they are unrecognizable to the average eye, making it more difficult for cardholders to ensure the security of their money. If you’re thinking, ‘Well, they’d need my PIN number anyway,’ they also have this covered. With only an additional PIN keyboard overlay any scammer can record PIN numbers as well.

In 2008, the U.S. Secret Service estimated that ATM fraud totaled nearly $1 billion, calculating out to be more than $350,000 per day during that year. The best way to prevent being a victim of a card skimming situation is to familiarize yourself with what different card skimmer designs look like and keep an attentive eye on places you use payment cards. Also, it is a good idea to monitor your bank account transactions, whether it’s through an online banking program or through monthly statements.

Remember card skimming is only one method that scammers use to help themselves to others’ money. Protection from financial fraud requires crucial attentiveness to secure personal funds. As we continue to utilize electronic banking more and more, it’s important to be aware of the risks that come along with it.

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