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Fraud at ATMs and gas pumps is on the rise and getting more sophisticated. Do you know what to look for? Here’s some information from the Federal Trade Commission:
Avoid skimmers at the pump — Skimmers are illegal card readers attached to payment terminals — like gas pumps — that grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without your knowledge. Criminals sell the stolen data or use it to buy things online. You won’t know your information has been stolen until you get your statement or an overdraft notice.
Skimmers are nothing new, but technology has made them smaller and harder to find. Sometimes, they’re even hidden inside a gas pump.
National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and Conexxus
Here are tips to help you avoid a skimmer when you gas up:
- Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel; this is part of a voluntary program by the industry to thwart gas pump tampering. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read “void,” which means the machine has been tampered with. Take a good look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station? For example, the card reader on the left has a skimmer attached; the reader on the right doesn’t.
- Try to wiggle the card reader before you put in your card. If it moves, report it to the attendant. Then, use a different pump.
- If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering a PIN. That way, the PIN is safe and the money isn’t deducted immediately from your account. If that’s not an option, cover your hand when entering your PIN. Scammers sometimes use tiny pinhole cameras, situated above the keypad area, to record PIN entries.
- Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.
As an added safety measure, you can pay inside rather than at the pump. Another option is to use a gas pump near the front of the store — thieves may target gas pumps that are harder for the attendant to see.
NOTE Credit: June 22, 2017, Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
What is phishing?
Phishing is an email scam that attempts to trick consumers into revealing personal information. The victim receives an email message claiming a need to verify personal information, often directing consumers to a fake website to verify personal details or prove eligibility for a nonexistent prize. The websites and email messages created by phishers can look legitimate, using logos and other elements from actual financial or government properties. For more information about this scam, please visit these sites:
What is SMiShing?
SMiShing (short for SMS phishing) is a text message scam in which the consumer is tricked into downloading a virus or other malware onto his cellular phone. Do not respond to a text message that you are not expecting or that appears out of nowhere. Also, if the text message appears to show a link to a website you are not familiar with, simply don’t bother with it and delete it from your phone.
Here are some tips to protect yourself from scams
- Never give out bank account or credit card numbers over the phone if you didn’t initiate the call to a reputable, known business. Con artists constantly create new stories to trick people into giving out their private financial and personal information.
- Beware of so-called ‘free trial offers,’ especially those that ask you for private information, or bank account or credit card numbers to cover shipping and handling charges. If the business is so interested in having you as a customer that it is willing to provide its product or service at no charge, why would it not also be willing to cover the cost of shipping?
- Check your accounts each month for unauthorized charges — your credit card and bank accounts, and even your phone bill. It pays to be careful and vigilant, and certainly to complain if somebody cheats you.
- When tempted by a great deal offered out of the blue by a business entity you have no direct knowledge of, remind yourself that offers which sound too good to be true generally are. Keep in mind that what is presented as a fabulous value for an amazing low price (e.g. coupons for $200 worth of gasoline in return for $1.95 mailing fee) might be no more than a set-up for the real purpose of persuading you to give up your financial information.
If you are the victim of a scam ...
- Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
Use an identity theft affidavit when disputing new unauthorized accounts.
- File a police report.
Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps them learn more about identity theft and the problems victims are having so they can better assist you.
ATM/Debit Card Security
Using your/Debit Card is the simple, hassle-free way to get cash, make deposits, check account balances, transfer funds, make purchases and more. To enjoy the many conveniences electronic banking offers, you should make Debit Card/ATM safety a priority.
Protect yourself from jugging
Criminals are surveilling and targeting people who have withdrawn large amounts of cash. Learn how to protect yourself with these tips from the APD.
Velocity offers this free mobile app that allows you to receive instant transaction notices and control when and where your Velocity cards can be used.
Other common scams
According to a report from Bankrate.com, the following are the eight most common scams of which consumers should be aware:
Products that are too good to be true
“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” the report reminds consumers. “Remember that a con artist makes a career of using excuses and explanations to lead you away from your common sense. When dealing with your money and personal information, never allow yourself to be rushed, threatened or persuaded against your judgment.” Consumers are warned that offers that are “too good to be true” do not just involve Internet or telemarketer scams. They may also be found in mail offers, magazine ads and brick and mortar stores. “Stay vigilant and trust your gut.”
Although identity theft is not new, cases of identity theft are rising. The thieves need only a few elements to victimize you — usually, your name and Social Security number will do. Scammers obtaining this information are often involved with other crimes such as advance fee scams and fraudulent job offers. The name for this scam is “phishing”… almost any scam can be sprinkled with a smattering of identity theft – advance fee scams, fraud jobs and online auctions included. All it takes to become a victim of identity theft is a leak of your personal information.
When giving to a charity, be sure to check out the charity first. “Never give payment information to anyone calling or emailing you, claiming to be with a charity,” the report recommends. “Ask them to send you paperwork on their organization. Then research the organization online and with the Better Business Bureau to make sure it’s legitimate — and that you’ve got the right contact information.”
“When people are down on their luck, they may turn to get-rich-quick or money-making schemes. Somehow the scammers make old scams, such as the Nigerian scam and pyramid schemes, seem like plausible ways for you to make a lot of cash in a hurry. If it’s an easy way to make money, it’s probably illegal, a scam or just a really bad idea.”
According to Bankrate.com, there are several types of employment scams. “The most notorious tricks include being recruited for an illegal job, identity theft through job applications, and bogus employment fees.” In addition, the information you provide in your job application may cause you to become a victim of identity theft. The scammer may then use your personal financial information to apply for credit cards to buy more merchandise. “While hunting for a job, you may encounter someone who promises you a job, but only if you will pay a fee for processing, administration or uniforms. Steer clear of these people even if they promise you a money-back guarantee.”
“There are several things to be careful of when bargain-shopping online. If you find an item priced far too low, it may be a scam — a fake item, a stolen item, an item in really bad condition or something you will pay for and never receive.” This is particularly important to remember in online auctions, where pressure often surrounds bidding wars. “Never agree to pay by cash or money order — these methods of payment are untraceable and offer you no protection. You may also want to be wary of escrow companies because they are easily faked.”
The prize that will cost you
“It should go without saying that if you get an email message saying you won something — and you didn’t enter — you should just delete it. This is a common scam,” the report states. Often, consumers receive an email message indicating that they’ve won something but in order to receive the winnings or the prize, they must pay the taxes or handling fee first. “If you didn’t enter anything, you didn’t win anything. And even if you did enter, taxes go to the government, not to the organization running the contest.” Also, never give out personal information such as your Social Security number or account number to anyone to claim a prize.
In this scam, consumers pay a fee in advance for receiving a credit card, loan or scholarship and receive nothing valuable in return. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recognized several fake loan ads. The ads appear to be real and even use the logos of real financial institutions. “But the phone number in the ad will lead you to an imposter on a cell phone who asks for your personal information, tells you where to wire money for a fee, then disappears — stealing your cash and identity.”