I would like to talk about a story that hit locally. It concerns a growing trend in “Skimming”. Just the other day a device that records credit card and debit card information was found in a 7-Eleven gas pump. Authorities say the device could have been there for over 60 days.

What is even more disturbing is that someone would have had to take the gas pump apart to hide the device inside where it was found. Investigators say that the management and employees were not involved. So how did this person do this without having record of it in the many cameras that are supposed to be watching our every move while pumping gas? I guess that is a question for another time.

So what is Skimming? Skimming involves using a credit card reader (skimmer) that records the information stored on the magnetic strip. When customers swipe their cards for purchases, the device captures and transmits card numbers, PIN codes and other information. This particular device used Bluetooth to send the information to the thief.

Once the information has been captured, it can be transferred to a “blank” and used just as if it were the real thing. So far only one card has been reported stolen from this device. The card was used to make around $11,000 in purchases. Just to show how fast stolen information moves, the gas pump was located in Utah and the fraudulent purchases were made in California. They could have just as easily been made in Europe somewhere.

This way of stealing information is not restricted to gas pumps. There are reports of waiters at restaurants and bars swiping credit cards through a skimmer. They will also write down the 3 or 4 digit security code on the card which is not included with the information on the magnetic strip. ATM’s have also been used to steal card information.

To sum it up, anywhere that you can use your credit card or debit card is a potential target for thieves. Some places are just more likely to be targets than other, like gas pumps.

So what can you do about this? Well, if you use debit and credit cards, not much. I have a few suggestions, but you need to be diligent in following them.

1. Make sure you are constantly checking your credit card statements and bank accounts for purchases that you did not make. The earlier you detect them, the easier it will be to correct them.

2. When using your debit card, try not to type in your PIN. If you can, run it through as credit. This will keep your PIN safe.

3. If you need to use an ATM, use one at a bank rather than a gas station or convenience store. Although a bank ATM could still be compromised, it is less likely. ATM’s at banks are generally under heavier surveillance and they are less attractive to thieves.

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