Beware of debit card skimming: police
Hide your PIN, check ATMs
More complaints of debit card skimming in the St. John’s area are prompting police to issue another warning to members of the public to be more careful when making transactions.
Const. Ken Duff of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s economic crime unit said last week “It’s been going on for some time, but we’re seeing a resurgence of it lately.”
Bank card skimming happens when a person’s card is swiped or read by a card reader without the card owner’s knowledge.
Card readers come in many sizes, shapes and designs and can operate independently or can be added to an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) and/or business PIN pad to make it appear as if it is part of the machine.
When the user places their card in the machine, it passes through the skimmer and the card information is read from the card’s magnetic strip and stored on the skimmer.
If the card holder is watched either in person or by a small hidden video camera as they enter their personal identification number, the criminal obtains all the information needed to access the card holder’s personal bank accounts.
Duff said the scammers are also using blue tooth technology to send the information from the bank cards to mobile devices, such as a laptop computer or wireless device.
They then upload the bank card’s information to another card that has a magnetic strip, such as a gift card or coffee shop card.
That card is then used at the bank machine to withdraw money.
“ The bank machine doesn’t recognize the type of card it is,” Duff said. “All it recognizes is the strip.”
Duff said there have been a few reports lately of fraudulent transactions that were conducted with stolen information. There are things people can do to protect themselves, Duff said.
Firstly, he said, examine the ATM machine before entering your debit card. Check for any signs of added units to the card entry slot area (comparing it to others nearby).
“If it looks different from other machines next to it,” he said, “that’s an indication something’s wrong.”
Also check for small hidden cameras, even under the canopies that cover the number buttons.
Duff said another sign of a scam is if an ATM has a sign saying “Out of order” taped to it.
“ The machine itself will indicate on the screen if its out of order once you use it,” he said. “ The sign is a way of luring people to use another ATM, in which they have the skimming device or camera attached.”
Duff said to always cover your hand when entering your PIN number.
All card holders are also encouraged to check their account activity against their card use and to contact their financial institution to report any account concerns.
Duff said businesses should never keep their PIN pads on the counter. If they are in plain view, the pads should be units that cannot be easily disconnected.
Duff said a good defence against skimming has been the implementation of debit card chips.
“ We have had no reported cases yet of chips being defeated,” Duff said.
He’s encouraging businesses to obtain PIN pads that read chips instead of magnetic strips.
“Retailers need to realize that if you have a pin pad that’s just a swipe and not a chip, you’re vulnerable too,” he said.
“ They need to protect their customers. Chip technology will eventually come, so they may want to do it sooner than later.”