Credit card thefts increase as thieves use new technology

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Thieves have upped their game with new ways to steal your money from credit and debit cards, as well as by wireless payment methods. Experts warn we have to be more vigilant about protecting ourselves.

We’ve traded convenience for security.  

We can get cash on demand and we can pay for things without ever having to open our wallets, but all that convenience is fertile ground for criminals.

“The explosion of technology allows thieves to steal more in a more efficient manner,” says certified identify theft risk management specialist Heather Wagenhals

The most recent study conducted last year by FICO  looked at criminal activity on credit cards and found a 10% increase in the numbers of payment cards that were compromised in 2017. That’s on top a 70% increase in 2016.

A lot of it happens at the gas pump or at the point of sale in a store. 

And it’s not just credit cards scammers are targeting.

“We need to be paying attention to wireless technologies we are using,” says Wagenhals. “Near field communicating devices like  Apple Pay/Google Pay and other wireless wallets are a bigger challenge because they can walk by you, bump into you and steal your data.

To protect yourself she suggests turning off the near field communication and other wireless access to our devices except when we are using them to buy something.

To steal your card data, criminals make exact copies of card readers that fit over the card reading devices used at self-checkout points of sale or they simply drop new tops on card readers at the check-out line.

They then use Bluetooth to send your stolen card info back to them from those devices which have intercepted your card info.

In some stores now on the swiping unit, they have a device that sticks up on the cover to block a fake top. Or  they’ll have a hologram on the top of the swiper to identify it as the actual cover.

However, Wagenhals says the problem is that simple anti-crime technology isn’t being used everywhere.

“It’s being deployed haphazardly,” she said.

She says Mom and Pop stores are more likely to use that anti-theft technique rather than major retailers.

Because those techniques are not used uniformly, Wagenhals says don’t count on them to protect you from a skimmer at point of sale.

When credit card companies began abandoning the magnetic strip and moving toward the chip it was supposed to cut down on theft, but it hasn’t worked so well in this country.

“We didn’t do it the way the Europeans did when they adopted the technology,” said Wagenhals. It was supposed to be chip and Pin number, but we’re doing chip and sign in the United States..

Thus, in this country, we are defeating the second layer of security the chip offers by not using pin numbers.

Skimmers can be placed inside of gas pumps. Now, more sophisticated technology allows thieves to slide a small sleeve-like unit right into the card reader at the pump in a matter of seconds.

There’s a simple way to protect yourself from the skimmers in the gas pump.

“I wouldn’t even use a gas pump reader,” says Wagenhals. Instead she says, you need to walk into the store and pay in person.

You also need to be aware of tiny pinhole cameras imbedded in card readers and ATMS or cameras near-by gas pumps or ATMS that criminals may have installed to capture your keystrokes.

“Look around you and see if there is a small, miniscule little camera, maybe the size of a button capturing data,” she said.

They’ll be no wires because the scammers are using cameras that transmit stolen data wirelessly.

You should also try and avoid using your card for every purchase to avoid exposure of your data.

For example, don’t use the card to make small purchases like buying a bottle of water and a pack of gum at the convenience store. Pay with cash instead.

Also, avoid using your card in debit mode, because that gives criminals access to all the money in your accounts. And If you do have a debit card, check your bank statements often.

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