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.”

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