PayPal President David Marcus recently tweeted about his credit card information being skimmed while traveling in the UK and subsequently used for a hefty shopping spree.
My card (with EMV chip) got skimmed while in the UK. Ton of fraudulent txns. Wouldn’t have happened if merchant accepted PayPal…
— David Marcus (@davidmarcus) February 10, 2014
While there has been a fair amount of attention paid to the fact that his card was equipped with both EMV chip and magnetic stripe technology, our team at the ITRC wants to focus on the fact that skimming is still a lucrative endeavor for thieves. This unfortunate event reminds us that it doesn’t matter who you are, you can still be a target for the thieves.
“Skimming” works by attaching an often undetectable mechanism, i.e. counterfeit card reader, to an ATM machine or point-of-sale terminal to capture the magnetic stripe information from a credit or debit card as it passes through the machine. Once this information is stored, thieves can download this data to blank plastic cards to make purchases, running up your credit or running down the money in your bank account.
Consumers can not always thwart the thieves and it certainly is worth mentioning that, as a consumer, you can do everything right and still become a victim. However, there are some things you should be aware of and a few steps you can take to minimize your risk.
Regardless of credit card technology, everyone can take simple precautions to help reduce their vulnerability when it comes to payment card data security. The list below provides just some of the ways that consumers can protect their credit/debit card information, or reduce their potential losses due to fraud, when going about their daily lives:
- Whenever possible, use your credit card instead of your debit card. There are two reasons for this. First, consumer protection laws are stronger for credit cards than they are for debit card. Second, credit card fraudulent transactions will only run up your credit charges, whereas debit card fraudulent transactions will take money directly out of your bank account. Many people need the actual money in their bank accounts to pay rent and other monthly essentials, making debit card fraud particularly harmful.
- Whenever using an ATM machine or any other Point of Sale (POS) terminal, look for any signs of tampering. These pieces of equipment will often have stickers placed over certain panels to indicate that the device has not been tampered with by an unauthorized individual. Check these stickers and also slightly push or rock said panels to see how secure and sealed it feels, as criminals will often leave these panels loose after forcing them open.
- Gas stations are often targeted by data thieves because the gas pump payment systems are usually unattended. Generally speaking, any unattended POS terminals are riskier to use than POS terminals located inside a store, attended by an employee.
- Check your financial accounts statements daily, or as often as possible, so you can take action as soon as you detect any fraudulent transactions. The sooner you report any such fraud, the more likely you will limit your losses and enjoy greater protection under the law.