We've all heard about scam artists and their tricky and deceitful ways. This is a story about skimmers, or skim artists. Credit card skimming has been around for years and is a growing problem that seems to be getting worse.
Here's how the scheme works: It starts with skim artists who recruit accomplices to find temporary work, usually at places such as restaurants, hotels and retail businesses. The accomplices are given an illegal electronic device, known as a skimmer, that can capture all of the personal information from a credit card or debit card. All it takes is a quick swipe and a few seconds, and the skimmer device captures the card holder's name, address, telephone number, card number, credit limit and PIN number.
If you're like most people, you probably assume that when you make a credit card transaction that the card is in safe hands. However, that isn't always the case. Skim artists will first swipe your card through the legitimate machine, but then secretly swipe it through the smaller skimmer machine when you're not looking. The accomplice usually is paid money to use the illegal skimmer machine and then returns the machine to the con man. The con man now has all the information he needs to download your credit card information onto a computer and make a fake card in your name.
The skim artist may use the phony credit card himself or sell it to someone else. Either way, chances are you won't know any of this has taken place until you get your monthly statement and notice the unauthorized charges made in your name.
Here are some safety tips to keep in mind to help protect yourself from skimmers and other types of credit card frauds:
Try to keep your eye on your credit card while it's being processed.
Make sure that the clerk returns your card to you. When it's returned, look at your card to be certain that it's really yours.
Check your statements regularly and review them thoroughly to make sure that you haven't been billed for purchases or transactions that you didn't make or authorize.
Obtain your credit report annually from the major credit bureaus and check for any fraudulent activity.
Never leave your credit cards laying around in the open.
When checking out at the store register, shield your credit card from people around you in case someone is looking over your shoulder for an opportunity to copy your credit card number.
Make sure your transactions are accurate. Be on guard for dishonest merchants who might change your credit card slip after you sign it.
Never sign a blank charge slip.
Always total your charge slip before signing the credit card receipt. Don't leave blank spaces for others to fill out.
Destroy carbons and voided receipts immediately.