I like to paint. I find it to be a lot cheaper than therapy. When I moved from NY to Texas I left so many of my beloved belongings behind (long story). Among those many things were my art supplies. So I recently took a trip to a neighborhood Michael’s Craft Store to begin building my art supplies back up. Seventy bucks later, I was well on the road to painting my way to happiness once more. Until I read a Yahoo article about skimming scams.
It seems Michael’s was recently yet another target of a debit card scam. Seems the arts and crafts chain had no idea what had happened, only finding out when they were contacted by “banking and law enforcement authorities” after they in turn had been contacted by customers. Numerous customers had noticed fraudulent charges made to their debit cards which ultimately had been traced back to transactions made at Michael’s stores. As I read further into the article I saw that the skimming scam had been perpetrated at Michael’s stores across the country. Then I came across a quote stating that several customers at a local Irving, Texas store had had their debit card information compromised. Eeek! That would be me!
I immediately checked my balance online and was relieved to see all was well with my account. Still unconvinced I then called the bank and was reassured that my account was uncompromised and they “had taken care of the informational breach”. Whew. To date, Michael’s claims it has removed all pin pads from all stores, but is still suggesting customers continue to monitor their accounts for suspicious behavior. However and obviously, skimming scammers are getting more and more sophisticated. Actual physical tampering of individual pin pads would have been necessary to conduct a scam like this. How did this happen?
These scams have been around for a few years now, but in the past have mostly been limited to gas stations and ATMS, places that aren’t usually monitored regularly. But the scam is obviously growing and getting more and more advanced. As was the case in the Michael’s scam, crooks were able to slip a tiny device into the pin pads that then allowed them to read the magnetic strip on debit cards as customers swiped them. And then a tiny camera was able to record customers as they entered their pin numbers. Some experts say that the average consumer has a one in five chance of being a victim. Unbelievable. So what are we supposed to do? We need to use our debit cards and most of us don’t feel comfortable carrying only cash. Here’s some excellent advice written by Yahoo Finance contributor, Dan Kadlec:
1. Cover your PIN. Your bankcard won’t work without the PIN. Thieves usually obtain the PIN with a small camera stationed near the card processor. So keep an eye out for anything that seems out of place. It might be a camera. In any event, shield the keypad with your body or free hand when entering your PIN.
2. Be selective with your ATM. Again, look for anything out of place. Any wires exposed? Tape evident? Hardware loose? If so, find another ATM. Use an ATM inside a bank whenever possible. Stay away from ATMs in remote locations or that appear seldom used. These are easy to tamper with and might even be dummy cash machines.
3. Leave some wiggle room. When you insert your card, wiggle it while it’s in the slot. If something seems loose, there might be theft device attached to the swipe hardware. Wiggling the card might jar the theft device from its hiding place.
4. Monitor your accounts. One of the best protections against continued use of your stolen information is to check bank statements regularly. With a debit card, you may be responsible for the first $50 and you must report theft within two business days of discovery and no later than 60 days after the theft for protection. Credit cards have more protections and might be a better choice if you have any reservations about an ATM or processing machine.
5. Look for security cameras. ATMs and gas pumps that are under video surveillance and have cameras aimed directly at the card readers are less likely to be fitted with card-skimming equipment.
6. Keep an eye on your card. When you give your card to a waiter or clerk, be skeptical of any request to swipe it through multiple devices or if they must leave your sight.
7. Be careful at the gas station. Gas stations are among the most prone to skimming. Use a credit card or choose the credit option on your bankcard.