At Watches Super Store we watch for what’s trending. Unfortunately, cyber crime on every scale is trending. From the old lady shopping for a fresh melon at the grocery store to the mega executive trading on the NYSE. Everyone is considered a target. There is no discrimination. Identity thieves do not necessarily care who they steal from.
Faceless, identity thieves are lurking in familiar corners of our everyday lives and we won’t know it until it’s too late. Everyday, a story pops up about a place we all frequent or at least know, that has been hacked. Yesterday the Safeway stores around the Denver area discovered that their credit card processing machines – the ones we all use to check out were being skimmed. What do I mean by skimmed?
Crooks profit from being clever.
For those of you who don’t know skimming has been done for the past several years at the gas pumps, retail stores and restaurants. When an identity crook wants to capture a credit or debit card number they place a small electronic device in the credit card processing machine. The device reads the card number from the magnetic strip when a patron swipes his card. Thieves don’t always want just to steal your money, they also get a good price for personal identity information on the black market. They can sell information to a foreign entity who lies in wait until it profits them to use it.
It’s a crazy reality. Most folks feel more comfortable shopping at the local brick and motor merchant and avoid on-line purchasing. However studies show that on-line is safer than the local tavern, grocery mart or shoe store. Electronics and technology have been a God sent, but in the hands of the wrong people – and the world is filled with “wrong” people they are only used for personal gain.
How to avoid being skimmed
It seems that skimmers are not going to go away, so the general public has to be made more aware of how to avoid falling into their snare. The device itself sometimes is more obvious than we would guess. It can be about the size of a deck of cards and fit right over the existing card reader. So look. If the card reader looks different – pass and go to another processor. Report your findings to the proprietor and get him to call the police to come have a look. If the processor looks tampered with in any way – scratches, or arrows not lined up, or you notice different materials are used from structure of the original machine, then walk away.
If using an ATM machine, cover the information you are in putting since often a camera – that may look very official belongs to an attacker. If they are sneakier, they’ll place a hidden camera somewhere within view of the key pad and easily pick up information that way. Another approach the crooks take is placing another keypad over the actual keypad and capturing information directly. Look for any and all things suspicious. If you think that your neighborhood wouldn’t be targeted, think again.
Another safety measure is to note if there are any shaky or wiggly parts on the card processor. ATM machines and card processors are sturdily built. If they have been tampered with it’s usually in a hurry and often a sloppy job gives the scam up. Tug at things, push and pull at parts, and don’t hesitate to be sure the keyboard is original.
Wiggle your card slightly as you swipe it. Since the skimmers are designed to read the magnetic strip, a slight jiggle can disrupt their capture.
Follow these tips and use common sense. Look for more tips in my upcoming articles. Staying ahead of cyber criminals and technology hijackers is part of modern day life. We don’t want to accept it, but we can’t afford to ignore it either.