Protect yourself against skimming

LB – Akop Changryan, 27 busted for placing skimming devices on gas pumps. FL – Cristobal Chavez, 29 accused of stealing the credit card numbers of more than two dozen customers of a restaurant-and then selling them to identity thieves. The problem of skimming is becoming such a problem that the local authorities and the U.S. Secret Service are renewing an effort to crack down on skimmers. And the question is: if placing “skimming devices” seems to be so easy how can we protect our money? Are there any ways to combat skimming? Here you can find some practical tips…

In accordance with the latest news from LB, a 27-year-old Glendale man was busted on Thursday for placing skimming devices on gas pumps at the Shell Station on Pacific Coast Highway.

Akop Tadevosovich Changryan is accused of using the devices to retrieve account information from drivers gassing up their cars at that station. Police suspect he then used the information to print fake credit cards.

Meanwhile, a former waiter at a south Florida restaurant is accused of stealing the credit card numbers of more than two dozen customers -and then selling them to identity thieves.

Cristobal Chavez, 29, stole the credit card numbers by copying them with a device called a skimmer while working at the Romeus Cuban Restaurant. Investigators believe Chavez copied the numbers over a several month span.

According to the Mercator Advisory Group, restaurants account for 70 percent of card skimming instances.

So skimming is becoming such a problem that Sgt. Leiner said the local authorities and the U.S. Secret Service are renewing an effort to crack down on skimmers.

And an obvious question is: if placing “skimming devices” seems to be so easy how can we protect our money? Are there any ways to combat skimming?

So, how can a cardholder protect themselves against skimming?

The best thing you can do is to not frequent places where your card leaves your sight. However, there are a few other things consumers can do to keep themselves from being a victim:

  1. Understand how skimming works. Skimming devices can be used to capture and store information, not just from credit and debit cards, but also from driver’s licenses and passports. In restaurants, small personal skimmers can be hidden in aprons.
  2. Think about what is at stake. Those little magnetic strips on a credit or debit card contain a wealth of encoded information, including your name, address, telephone number, card number, credit limit and PIN number. You should always try to keep your card in sight.
  3. Learn how to spot skimming devices. When you approach an ATM or a gas pump, you should give it a good once-over before swiping your card. Look for faceplates and card readers that appear to have been attached to the original machine. There may be signs with strange messages like, “Swipe your card here before inserting it into the card reader.” On the other hand, there may be tiny cameras pointing at the spot where you’d type in your PIN.

How does a cardholder detect if their card was skimmed?

You typically will not know your card has been skimmed until you check your balance or your card statement. You should always examine the statement closely to look for unauthorized charges. Sometimes a card issuer will notice charges that don’t seem typical for you and call you to ask if you made the transaction. In any case, card issuers allow you to challenge charges you did not authorize and the industry stands by its customers.

What is being done in the credit card industry to combat skimming?

The credit card industry continually beefs up security and standards. VeriFone’s wireless pay-at-the-table product called ON THE SPOT allows the customer to pay the check without the card ever leaving their possession. ON THE SPOT is now in use at nearly 50 restaurants nationwide, and it will be expanded in the coming years. Pay-at-the-table products are already in widespread use in European restaurants.

Another product, Secure PumpPAY, ensures a secure transaction at gas pumps, another environment where skimming is prevalent. The credit card industry is introducing tougher standards on these merchants in the coming years, meaning more secure payment technology will be available to consumers. VeriFone is working to prevent skimming by utilizing encryption and other technology to protect financial information transmitted over local Wi-Fi networks.

What can a merchant do to stop skimming by their employees?

Merchants are learning that when they use industry-compliant and solutions in front of the customer (such as ON THE SPOT and Secure PumpPay), they are virtually ensuring skimming will not occur. When the customer has control of his or her card at all times, the risk is greatly reduced because would-be skimmers don’t have access to commit fraud, and merchants are protected. In retail environments like grocery stores, department stores and even fast-food restaurants, customers have embraced these customer-facing transactions. This technology protects both the consumer and the merchant.

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