How to Spot and Prevent Credit Card Skimming

credit card skimming scam

Have you or someone you know been a victim of Credit Card Skimming?  Skimming is a method by which thieves steal your credit card information, and all it requires is a little technology and a lot of criminal intent by those who handle your credit card.

Unfortunately, this is becoming a bigger and bigger problem across the country. You need to understand how Credit Card Skimming works and what you can do to protect yourself.

Here's how it works

The bad guys buy magnetic card readers (readily available online) and attach them to legitimate card readers at ATM machines, gas station pumps, movie rental kiosks, or anywhere they think they can get away with it.

credit card skimmingThe counterfeit card reader captures the credit card information of everyone who uses the machine. (On ATM machines, crooks also attach tiny video cameras to steal PIN numbers.)

They then remove the phony device and use the stored information to buy stuff online or write the data onto new magnetic strips to make counterfeit credit cards or ATM cards.

Counterfeit Credit Card Trends

Portable skimmers (small enough to fit in a palm) can be used by anyone who handles your credit card, such as a waiter. All they have to do is get your card out of your sight for a second. That's enough time to swipe it through the device, and steal your information without you suspecting a thing.

Follow these tips to protect yourself from Credit Card Skimming:

• Don't let your credit card out of sight. Watch carefully anyone who handles your card.

• Keep track of receipts and check your credit card statements regularly to make sure you authorized all purchases.

• Report any unauthorized purchases immediately to your credit card companies.

• Don't use a credit card reader if there are any signs of tampering. Don't swipe your card through devices that offer to clean the magnetic strip. Those are scams designed to capture your credit card information.

Have you been a victim of Credit Card Skimming? 

  • Call the police. When your identity or credit card is stolen, it's just like having a car stolen. Make a police report and hang on to the police report number.
  • Contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately and tell them your card was stolen. If you don't make a report quickly, you may be liable for some or all of the unauthorized charges.
  • If you report swiftly, federal law caps your liability at $50. Most credit cards voluntarily go further, and won't charge you at all -- again, if you report quickly. "If you end up being a victim, it's probably not going to cost you any money," Brewer says. "If you notify your bank quickly, they'll return the money. Don't get hung up about the fact that someone might drain your bank account. The most you will probably spend on it is wasted time and lots of aggravation, since it can be a long process to get everything worked out."
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus -- TransUnion, Equifax and Experian -- to request a security freeze, which prevents new credit authorizations without your consent. Brewer suggests visiting the website "It's an institution created in response to a large number of identity theft victims and the cost incurred to them," Brewer says. Through the site, which was mandated by federal law in response to consumer outcry, you are entitled to receive one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus.

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Tags: debt settlement, debt consolidation, credit card skimming, free credit report