Protect yourself from credit card crooks


Be sure to protect yourself from credit card crooks.

Our lives are a series of credit card swipes for purchases. We swipe for gas, we swipe for groceries, and we swipe for our morning Triple, Venti, Half Sweet, Non-Fat, Caramel Macchiato. If we are behind someone who is using cash or especially a check, we get aggravated. Why mess with cash when you can get to all your money on a small plastic card? The card you use to handle your purchases has weaknesses that hackers are only too happy to exploit.

Over the last several years, the number of credit cards that had their information illegally acquired has had a dramatically increased according to FICO, the credit scoring company that is used by most banks and lenders to determine borrowers’ financial soundness. There was a 26 percent increase from 2015 to 2016 in the amount of places where debit card financial information was stolen they reported. And those penetrations required thousands of people to have to get new cards.

It is extremely easy for thieves to steal your debit card information. Crooks can place skimming devices and/or cameras over the keypads at gas pumps or ATMs to capture PINS and card numbers and then put this information onto a counterfeit card that they can utilize to hack into your personal bank account. There recently was a skimmer found on a gas pump in Lockport. It was removed before any credit card information was stolen.

The improvement of skimming technology contributes to the rise in credit card crime. For less than $100, anyone can purchase a skimmer from a marketplace online and they are making them even smaller and harder to detect. Online, the simplicity of skimming breeds even more theft when people become successful and then they become more organized.

There is also the practice of “Social Engineering.” Years ago someone from “credit card security” called me at 2:00 AM waking my wife and me. They claimed my CC number was being used to make calls to India, Pakistan and China and wanted us to verify our numbers. All he wanted was my CC number, the pin and the name on the card to verify I was “the proper person” he was calling. He was a very smooth operator and by feigning stupidity, I kept them on the line for almost an hour. I enjoyed listening to his banter he had instantaneous answers to all my questions but when I asked him where he was calling from he hesitated. That’s when he started to unravel. I asked the scammer “Where are you located?” After a long delay (like they had to look it up) they responded West Menlo Park CA. I then decided to ask a political question and asked “What congressional district are you in?” It was at this point the phone went dead.

The Federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act stipulates that if you report your card is lost or stolen before someone uses it, you are not liable for the fraudulent transactions. If your credit card is used before you report it, your liability could depend on how quickly you report it. In most cases, if you report it within two business days the maximum you might be held liable for is $50. If you wait more than that to alert your bank you could be liable for up to $500. However most credit card companies will waive the fraudulent charges the first time.

Here is a tips to lessen the possibility your card will be compromised. Be aware of the ATM you’re using. If anything looks out of place or your card doesn’t go into the machine easily, walk away. If you use an ATM and your card isn’t immediately returned, contact your bank or financial institution at once. Pay attention to the people lingering near you. If someone is standing a little too close, don’t complete your transaction. Go away. Check your bank account regularly and set up an online alert for your accounts. Ensure all your contact information (address, email, and mobile number) is correct on your account.

It has become very simple for crooks to steal credit card data. Criminals place cameras and/ or skimming devices over the keypads at ATMs or at gas pumps to capture your card numbers and PINS and then insert the information onto a card that they can use to access your bank account.

I’m not relating all this to you to panic you. Just to advise you to be careful out there.

Norb is a writer from Lockport who just got several million dollars from a Nigerian prince and he expects the funds to be deposited in his bank account soon. You can follow him at his blog

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