Written by Clayton Alexander
Having your credit card stolen can be taxing on the mind — and your finances. You might think that having your credit card stolen requires physically losing it, right? These days, most have their credit card stolen without them even knowing. Maybe you’re visiting clients or perhaps even something as simple as your commute to/from work. Wherever you are, your information might be easily plucked by scam artists if you’re not careful. Because of this, here are some scams to be on the lookout for when you’re on the go.
These days, your credit card information can be stolen by scam artists right out of your wallet, purse or pocket with little effort. The method of wireless skimming is where a scam artist will use a special device to analyze and extract the information stored in your card’s magnetic strip. The devices have a range of around 3-4 feet within range of your card, although its range can be increased if it has an antenna attached to it. This information can include your card’s number and expiration date. However, there is some information that cannot be extracted, such as your card’s PIN and its CVV number on the back. The devices can be hard to catch if you’re in a public place, but there are some precautions that you can take. You can either purchase a wallet or purse that’s specially made to block these sensors. An easier approach might be to simply buy a special sleeve to keep your card(s) in that are smaller, cheaper, and essentially do the same job.
Credit card shimming (not to be confused with skimming) is a small sliver-shaped electronic device that scam artists attach to the scanners of ATMs and Gas Station Pumps. These are hard to notice, and actively scan/store the information of credit cards that are inserted into one of the aforementioned machines. True to their name, shims are thin and are often hard to notice, though a tell-tale sign that one is present in the card reader is when you might find some resistance trying to insert or take out your card from the machine. Aside from spotting shims, it is equally important when using a card that, when you are prompted to put in your pin, you should always cover your hand when entering in those very important digits, you never know who is watching or if a scammer has set up a hidden camera.
A danger for those traveling in recent years has been a series of scams and tricks centered around hotels. Many scammers these days will set up websites made to look like the hotel’s actual website, and are used to steal the credit card information of unsuspecting online customers. Another, much newer scam is also centered around hotels. Hotel guests will get a call in the middle of the night from their room’s phone. When answered, the caller says that they are from the hotel’s front desk service, and that their computer system has crashed, and that they will need them to re-enter their credit card information either over the phone or by going down to the front desk. The hotel guest, tired from being woken up in the middle of the night, will more often than not choose the former of the two, the option that will sooner reunite their head with the pillow. For those that choose the latter, they will be surprised to arrive at the front desk, only to find out that the staff there never made such a call, and that they only barely managed to dodge a scam artist’s trick.
Your credit card’s information is valuable, and if you’re not too careful, you might find some unknown charges on your card. Usually, you want to check your credit card transactions daily, make it a habit or morning/evening ritual. Be on the lookout for unauthorized payments for very small charges, as usually this is a sign that your credit card information has been compromised and is being tested to make sure it works. After all, having to deal with the aftermath of a scam is a headache you probably don’t need.
Clayton Alexander is the Storyteller/Communications Specialist at Better Business Bureau serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties.