Skimming: How To Not Be A Victim

9:43 PM, Jul 4, 2011   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- According to the U.S. Secret Service, ATM skimming is on the rise. More than $1 billion is stolen every year.

Lorie Briggs uses her debit card for everything from groceries to gas. She told us, "My husband went to get gas one day and the card was denied."

A quick call to the bank and Lorie learned more than $400 was gone.

"Our account was at zero. We didn't know how we were going to pay the bills!" said Lorie.

Lorie was a victim of skimming -- the unauthorized capture of your debit or credit card's magnetic strip data. False card readers and hidden wireless cameras are used by thieves to swipe bank account info.

Kurt Helwig with the Electronic Funds Transfer Association explained, "They'll download that information, and they'll have it, and with that information they'll go create a bogus card."

Helwig says today's skimming devices, like a bogus card reader, are increasingly sophisticated.

"If it's a well done crime, it's something that looks just like that which you would typically use when you swipe your card," stated Helwig.

They can be attached to the outside of an ATM vestibule or even a gasoline pump. That's where Lorie's bank believes she was skimmed.

"We didn't notice anything in particular that was suspicious," said Lorie.

John Pearce with ADT Security Services says you should check the card reader for anything suspicious.

"Telltale signs such as tape sticking out of a portion of the ATM or out of the PIN pad, or tape residue or glue residue where something has been applied," he listed.

Then, you should scan your surroundings.

Pearce said, "The wireless camera is likely to be installed immediately above the ATM, within the ATM, or in the ceiling."

To protect your pin number, Pearce recommends clipping your hand over the keypad.

"It protects you against what the skimming bad guys capture on their video cameras," Pearce said.

The good news is that consumers are not held liable for fraudulent losses and many financial institutions are beginning to buy anti-skimming devices.

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