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Beware of Credit Card Skimmers

By Martin Harris in Credit Cards
April 10th, 2011

  Would you catch it if a cashier or salesperson swiped your card through two card readers in one swift movement? Would you ever be able to tell if the gas station where you swipe your card at the pump had a “bug” that saved your data both to the pump  and to the “bug”  for later retrieval by a thief? Most consumers are rarely aware of these skimmer devices until it’s too late.

  This kind of credit card theft - the use of credit card skimmers - is becoming more and more widespread. Small skimmer units operate by swiping the credit card’s magnetic strip through them just as an ATM or a point of sale for making a purchase. Clever thieves have learned how to attach these units to existing credit card readers so they are nearly impossible to detect when one is being used. When a card is swiped through the reader, the card number, account holder name and address and sometimes even the pin number are stored so the thief can access it later. From the stored information (on however many credit cards the thief was able to “skim” through the machine), counterfit, “cloned” credit cards are created and then used to make purchases.

  Unbelievably, it is not difficult to get a credit card skimming machine. They can be searched for and purchased online, making it possible for any aspiring thief to gain access to a skimming machine for around $300. Thieves can then choose to sell the card information to “companies” who make counterfeit credit cards; or perhaps they’ll purchase the equipment necessary to create their own fake credit cards, for around $10,000.

  Credit card losses due to credit card skimming theft is estimated at $1 billion each year.

  If you’ve been the victim of credit card fraud, you should know that the Truth in Lending Act limits your liability to $50 is the card has been stolen or lost. Most card issuers waive that $50 fee, as well. Don’t think all cardholders aren’t paying for these crimes- because we are in the form of higher interest rates, finance fees and miscellaneous fees. Consumers who are victims of identity theft/credit card fraud also pay in the time it takes to fix their credit reports. It can take months of phone calls and letters to credit reporting agencies to get errors removed and corrected from your credit report; and it’s possible that not all errors will ever be fully corrected which can impact your future ability to obtain credit or affect the interest rates you pay on the money you are able to borrow.


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