Pocket-sized devices enable credit card skimming
Identity thieves are making use of new technology, in the form of pocket-sized scanners, to grab the information right off consumers' credit cards.
With these devices, a consumer who hands over their credit card to an unscrupulous store clerk or dishonest waiter could become a potential victim of identity theft.
In a matter of seconds, information can be skimmed from your credit card using one of these portable scanners.
The credit card transaction is then performed normally, and your card is handed back to you. But with your personal information, identity thieves can make counterfeit credit cards which can then be used for illegal shopping sprees.
The information contained on hundreds of credit cards' magnetic strips can be read and recorded on these small devices. Skimming can also take place at gas stations and ATMs.
Victims of such fraud may remain unaware that their credit card has even been skimmed until fraudulent charges appear on a card statement.
What can be done to prevent skimming? The primary defense involves keeping credit cards in the consumer's sight at all times.
Some restaurants are opting to install portable devices so that patrons can pay their bills at their tables -- adding convenience while also making sure their credit card remains visible as the transaction is processed.
At locations that do not provide this option, consumers can follow their credit card to the cash register to better keep an eye on it.
And, as always, if suspicious charges are discovered on the cardholder's statement, they should call the credit card issuer as soon as possible to report the potential fraud.
While credit card skimming represents a new potential threat, consumers who fall victim still should not be liable for any of the unauthorized charges put on their plastic, as long as they quickly alert their bank to the fraud.
Published: May 14, 2007