How It Communicates: Credit Card Skimming Technology

What exactly credit card skimming is and what happens when your card communicates with a swiper.Credit card skimming has become a worldwide problem. When a thief possesses a kind of tiny credit card reader known as a “skimmer,” he can pass your card through a swiper, just like when your card is normally used, and potentially steal your money. The skimmer, which can fit in the palm of the hand, reads all of the card data which can then be used to make a duplicate card.


Advancing Technology:
The Internet has made identity and credit card fraud much easier for criminals. A few years ago, card skimming was not as common. Back then, creating a cloned credit card was difficult due to larger equipment that was much harder to get a hold of. But now, less than $400 on many websites will buy you the pint-sized skimmer to steal credit card information. And for another $10,000, it is possible to buy the necessary machines and technology to create duplicate credit cards right from your living room.

Consumer Rights:
There are laws set up to protect credit card owners from aggressive theft techniques like credit card skimming. As soon as you realize there are unauthorized charges on your credit card, immediately call the lost or stolen credit card hotline offered by your bank or credit card institution. Under the “Truth in Lending Act,” consumers are protected from paying unauthorized charges on their credit cards. By law, you will only be held responsible for $50 of the charges.

Red Flags:
Customer service personnel, especially cashiers, can play an active role in catching credit card skimmers and preventing fraud. Anyone dealing with credit card transactions must ask for photo ID every time they swipe a card, and they need to be aware that someone on an illegal spending spree will display some slightly odd behavior. One example of what to watch for is someone making indiscriminate purchases where the buyer does not care about clothing size, product warranties or home delivery, quality, cost, color and other normal things a consumer usually cares about. Also watch for people who come into the store more than once a day and make large purchases on a credit card each time.

After the Damage:
Once you’ve called your credit card issuer and notified them about the illegal charges, get in touch with each of the three credit bureaus. The phone numbers are: Equifax, 800-525-6285; TransUnion, 800-680-7289; and Experian, 888-397-3742. Place a fraud alert on your credit report, and consider a credit freeze as well. Following the phone calls to the credit bureaus, fill out an online complaint form with the Federal Trade Commission. Finally, take a printed copy of this compliant to your local police and file a police report.

Protect Yourself:
Monitor your credit on a regular basis to catch unauthorized charges as soon as they occur. Everyone is entitled to a free credit report every year from all three credit bureaus at the annual credit report website (See Resources for link). Watch for anyone trying to copy your card information by writing it down or by taking cell phone pictures.

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