Don’t get ‘skimmed’ this holiday weekend!

4th of July holiday weekend could be prime time for skimmers to hit your wallet

If you’re like many Americans, your July 4th plans will probably extend into the weekend. Many Americans will be traveling to see friends and family. If you’re continuing to celebrate, Better Business Bureau would like you to be extra cautious with your debit/credit cards to avoid a fraud technique known as “skimming.”

According to a FICO report, 20 states including Texas saw an increase in ATM skimming cases from 2010 to 2012. Texas had a 4.6 percent increase in cases over that three year period.

The report claimed that nearly half (46 percent) of all card skimming reported to the company in 2012 occurred at bank ATMs, while 36 percent took place at retail point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

Card skimming is not only a national problem, it’s a global one. According to the European ATM Security Team (EAST), reports of ATM-related fraud attacks in Europe more than quadrupled in a five-year span from 4,934 incidents in 2007 to 20,244 incidents in 2011.

Skimming devices can be installed on ATM machines and at gas pumps. Once consumers swipe their card through the fake reader, their account information is collected by the criminals. In addition, these thieves can even use hidden cameras to record the consumer inputting their personal identification number. A blank card can then be encoded to withdraw money from the victim’s account.

The ATM above looks almost normal, but on closer inspection you can see that a skimming device has been installed.

To avoid a skimming attack on your account, the FBI has the following tips:

  • Inspect – Inspect the ATM, gas pump or credit card reader before using it. Be suspicious if you see anything loose, crooked or damaged. Also, check for any scratches or tape residue on the scanning device.
  • Block – When entering your PIN, block the keypad with your other hand to prevent possible hidden cameras from recording your number.
  • Use wisely – If possible, use an ATM at an inside location where criminals are less likely to have installed skimming devices.
  • Plan carefully – Be careful of ATMs in tourist areas. They are a popular target for criminals.
  • Contact – If you use a machine that takes your credit card and have trouble retrieving it after hitting “cancel,” immediately contact the financial institution that issued the card.

Additionally, BBB recommends consumers:

  • Monitor your accounts. Monitor your bank statements regularly to make sure all transactions are correct. You can sign up for certain alerts on your account if you feel it is necessary.
  • Notify bank when you’re out of town. If you are out of town, alert your banking institution and credit card company to your location.
  • Create a unique PIN. Create a PIN that’s difficult to break. Consider changing your access code on a regular basis if you feel your account may be vulnerable to criminal activity.
  • Report fraud immediately. Report any fraudulent activity to your bank as soon as you discover it. Consumer protection for your debit and credit cards vary, but depend largely on the timeline in which the incident occurred and when you report it.