Burnsville, Minnesota - July 19, 2012 -
Even if you're choosy about which ATMs and gas stations you frequent, you can still become a victim of identity thieves who place seamless devices on machines to steal - or 'skim' - sensitive financial information. Skimming is a growing problem and the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) recommends that consumers take immediate steps to protect themselves from becoming the next victim.
"Skimming devices are becoming increasingly harder to detect and often blend in seamlessly with credit card readers," said Dana Badgerow, President and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. "If you're going to use an ATM or pay at the pump when filling up, you could become a victim. It's important to monitor your accounts closely so you can quickly detect any fraudulent activity on your card and act to minimize your losses."
Identity thieves tamper with ATMs and public credit card readers in any number of different ways in order to steal card numbers and PINs. It only takes a few seconds to install cameras over the keypad or a device over the card reader.
Here are some things you can do to avoid becoming a victim of credit card skimmers:
Protect your PIN - When entering your PIN, cover the keypad with your other hand to prevent any cameras from catching your digits. False keypads placed over the real keypad are also a way scammers get PIN numbers, so if the keypad looks different, find a different ATM machine.
Give it a wiggle - Skimming devices are often false panels attached to the ATM or credit card reader - where you swipe your card. Inspect debit and credit terminals closely. If anything looks damaged or unusual, give it a wiggle. Also look for new or suspiciously placed cameras and unusual signage. Don't hesitate to walk away and use another ATM - or pay inside if you're at a gas station - if something doesn't feel right.
Be picky with your ATMs - Avoid using ATMs in poorly lighted or low-traffic areas. Experts often recommend choosing a bank ATM over standalone ATMs in public places. Not only do identity thieves attach devices to legitimate ATMs to steal numbers, they will also place their own phony ATMs in public places.
Pay inside or pay with cash - Paying inside at gas stations reduces your risk of credit card fraud greatly, and paying with cash eliminates the possibility altogether.
Keep an eye on your statements - The most vigilant person can still fall victim to skimming, and it's important to always keep a close eye on your accounts - particularly the itemized breakdown of charges and debits -so that you can quickly report any suspicious activity on your account.
Report Fraud Immediately - Report any fraudulent activity to your bank or credit card provider as soon as you discover it. Paying with a credit card is also a good idea, because consumers have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their account. Consumer protections for debit cards vary from institution to institution, but depend largely on when you report the fraudulent activity. If you wait too long to report the fraud, your bank account could be cleaned out and your bank might not reimburse you.
For more advice on avoiding scams and preventing fraud, visit www.bbb.org/us/consumer-tips-scams.