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As many people are out doing their holiday shopping and attending events celebrating the season with family and friends, the Roswell Police Department urges citizens to be aware of the threat of debit- and credit-card “skimming” and take precautions to prevent becoming a victim of these criminals who often use deceptive technology to steal card information in order to illegally access the financial account.
Skimming generally involves a thief attaching a device to an ATM, gas-station pump or other legitimate machine in which people use various financial-account cards for transactions. The skimming device captures the information stored on the magnetic strip on a customer’s card. A small camera may be positioned to view the keypad as the customer enters the PIN.
Some of these devices have a memory stick to store account information and some are able to transmit digital data over radio waves. Thieves who manage to collect the coding from a card’s magnetic strip and determine the PIN have what they need to create a duplicate of the card and access the account.
Thieves often fit their skimming devices, often referred to as “false fronts,” atop the genuine card reader. Before inserting a card into the slot, take a moment to look closely at the ATM, gas pump or whatever type of card-reading machine it is. Watch out for card slots that seem to protrude or be out of alignment with the rest of the surrounding parts.
A thief will install the skimming device, give it some time to collect information and then retrieve the device. These skimmers are usually made to look similar to the design of the authentic machine on which they are placed. So in addition to a visual inspection, use a hand or two to make sure the mechanism around the card slot is secure and appears to be properly built in to the rest of the machine.
And remember to take precautions even at a basic, “non-techie” level when using a payment card. Make sure during a credit-card or debit-card transaction to keep your eye on your card if you must hand it to the store clerk. Don’t forget to get it back. Make sure someone else isn’t sneaking a peek at the keypad while you are entering your PIN during a transaction in a store or at an ATM or gas pump. Anytime you are using a card and your PIN, use your arm or shoulder to shield your PIN as you enter it so it isn’t open to the view of the person over your shoulder in line or people passing by.
Also remember to take care of card account information when shopping or donating by phone or online.
Do not give your account numbers or any other financial or personal information to anyone on the phone unless you initiated the call and know the company/person you are dealing with is reputable. When online, do not open emails from sources you do not recognize. Even then, be aware email scammers and identity thieves will often send emails disguised as coming from well-recognized, reputable stores and companies, so click with caution.
When creating online accounts for shopping or donating, make sure the site is secure (secure sites will usually begin with “https”, with the “s” being the key). Also, create strong passwords that use a good number of characters and include uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols.
This time of year is a popular time for charities to make phone solicitations seeking donations. Make sure you trust that the caller actually does represent the entity he or she claims to represent. Consider taking an extra step of asking for a phone number to call the headquarters of the charity or have them send you official printed donation information in the mail.