The frequency of credit card fraud has risen in recent years, affecting both customers and credit card issuers. Here are three of the most common techniques criminals use to steal credit card information and how to avoid them:
Unfortunately for consumers and banks alike, skimmers are versatile and can be installed almost anywhere credit cards are accepted, given the opportunity.
These are devices that read and store credit card information as a customer attempts to make a purchase. They allow the purchase to go through, but keep the information in onboard memory. When the thief collects the skimmer, they simply need to plug it into a computer to collect the stolen information.
The most common types of skimmers are those installed in public places, like on ATMs and gas pumps. These skimmers are typically designed to go over the existing credit card reader and give the appearance that they is part of the whole unit. Before using your card at these places, grab the reader and shake it a bit. Skimmers installed in this way usually aren't securely attached, so it should come off right away. If you're unsure, be safe and head inside the bank or gas station and perform your transaction there.
While these are the easiest skimmers for criminals to implement, they're not the only ones. Not all skimmers are external devices. Some are installed internally, connecting directly to the electronics of the device. These are most common in stores and, because of the intricate nature of their execution, typically involve rogue employees. Avoid self checkout lanes at supermarkets and opt for cash or contact-less payment options instead. If you need to use a card, go for credit over debit, as they usually have better fraud protection.
Another type of skimmer actually has no attachment to point of sale devices at all. They are typically used in places where an employee takes your card to perform a transaction, like at restaurants. Before they run your card to process the sale, they'll slid it through a separate device, which will store the card information. In these situations, pay with cash or ask to be present when the card is processed.
Some fraudsters trick customers into giving them their information. This process is called phishing and most commonly occurs over phone or email. A criminal will contact you pretending to be your bank or some other official entity and convinces them to relay their credit card information. If this happens, never respond directly. Instead, call the number on the back of your credit card. That is the only definite way you can guarantee you are talking with someone from your bank. If the call was from them, you will quickly be routed to the correct department. If it wasn't, you can report the suspicious activity to your bank.
Some websites try to pass themselves off as reputable storefronts but are actually only there to steal your credit card information. If you have any doubts, type in the website directly rather than clicking a link from another source. Also, check the sites URL. If it begins with HTTPS, that means it's a secure site and it should be alright to proceed.
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