As thieves have turned to hi-tech crime, identity theft and card fraud, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with their elaborate scams. What’s more, as new technological inroads and advancements are being made more quickly, thieves are manipulating this technology to create even more complex cons. The latest example of hi-tech fraud is called card skimming, and while it’s a form of identity theft, it doesn’t involve a skilled hacker stealing your personal information via computer.
Prevention and Protection
Over the past decade, identity theft has become a major criminal enterprise. Card skimming is another branch of that ever-growing technological threat. The best way to combat the threat is to stay alert and take precautions. Identity theft protection services, like Lifelock, notify you when unauthorized withdrawals are being made on your account. However, in order to keep your personal information safe, you’re going to have to pay close attention to your environment. Today, when you use an ATM terminal, you need to look out for anything electronically suspicious. If a machine doesn’t look right, then don’t use it. For example, look out for adhesives, parts of the ATM that look loosely fashioned, or bent and jagged card slots.
Understanding the Scheme
Card skimming is a scheme that involves both custom-made electronic devices and phony surveillance equipment. Whether it’s a pinhole camera or a fake keypad, the thieves will attach the device to an ATM terminal. These devices will either allow them to record your account information when you slide your card, or the camera will be able to read your PIN number when you enter it. With your account information, the thieves can then create their own bank cards. Advancements in technology have granted thieves the ability to create undetectable skimmers.
Whether made out of plastic or plaster, these well-crafted devices are only attached to the ATM terminal for a few hours, which is more than enough time for the thieves to collect numerous account numbers. In some cases, the thieves will need to return for the device as that is where the information is stored. It is more likely your personal information is being electronically transferred somewhere else as soon as you slide your card.
While card skimming thieves have been known to target large banks, they generally attach these electronic devices to less conspicuous ATM terminals. Isolated, outdoor terminals are prime targets. However, it’s no longer just ATM machines that these thieves are focusing on, but all point-of-sale locations including gas stations and 24-hour stores. While ATM skimming can happen to anyone, tourists and travelers are particularly susceptible, and this is why there has been a significant rise of card skimming at gas stations. In other words, once you realize your bank account has been compromised, you are in another state or perhaps another country.
There’s no foolproof way to prevent card skimming. If an electronic device is uniquely advanced and camouflaged, you probably won’t see it. Identity theft protections and common sense will keep your personal information from the prying eyes of hi-tech thieves.