Card Skimming 101: How to spot, avoid, and deal with it

A thief use magnet steal credit card

“Skimming” is a method by which thieves steal your credit card information, and all it requires is a little illicit technology and a lot of criminal intent by those who handle your credit card. Skimming occurs most frequently at retail outlets that process credit card payments — particularly bars, restaurants and gas stations.

How skimming works
Skimmers are small devices that can scan and store credit card data from the magnetic stripe. Crooks can install skimmers on a gas pump, or corrupt employees can have a skimmer stashed out of sight of customers. Once the card is run through the skimmer, the data is recorded, and the crooks can sell the information through a contact or on the Internet, at which point counterfeit cards are made. The criminals go on a shopping spree with a cloned copy of the credit or debit card, and cardholders are unaware of the fraud until a statement arrives with purchases they did not make.

John Brewer, assistant district attorney in the major fraud division of Harris County Texas District Attorney’s Office, says, “Many consumers think that shopping online is a high-risk endeavor compared to going to a brick-and-mortar store, but I believe the opposite. The vast majority of cases we investigate have to do with employees at a physical store stealing your information.”

How to avoid skimming

  • Make sure your card stays in sight, and never let anyone leave your presence with the card if you can help it. “Skimming occurs most at restaurants since the waiter has to walk away with your card,” Brewer says. “If you are in a retail store and they say they have to go to another counter to run the card, follow them.” If you are concerned about letting go of your card at restaurants, use cash instead.
  • Your credit card is like cash. “You need to be aware that your credit card is very valuable,” Brewer says. “Treat it like a diamond or cash. Would you just give someone cash and let them walk away with it?”
  • Monitor credit card receipts and check them carefully against your statements. If you are married, sit down with your spouse to account for all charges, Brewer says. Some thieves take out small amounts in hopes cardholders won’t notice.
  • Shred unwanted financial solicitations and put your mail on hold when you leave town. This will help with other forms of identity theft.

To further protect yourself from potential unauthorized charges or identity fraud, you can request that credit bureaus monitor your accounts for unusual spending patterns and require them to notify you before new credit can be granted in your name. These services come at a price; normally under $100 per year depending on the credit agency. But that might be a worthy investment, especially if you eat in restaurants on a regular basis.

How to deal with skimming

  • Call the police. “When your identity or credit card is stolen, it’s just like having a car stolen,” Brewer says. Make a police report and hang on to the police report number.
  • Contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately and tell them your card data has been stolen. If you don’t make a report quickly, you may be liable for some or all of the unauthorized charges.
  • If you report swiftly, federal law caps your liability at $50. Most credit cards voluntarily go further, and won’t charge you at all — again, if you report quickly. “If you end up being a victim, it’s probably not going to cost you any money,” Brewer says. “If you notify your bank quickly, they’ll return the money. Don’t get hung up about the fact that someone might drain your bank account. The most you will probably spend on it is wasted time and lots of aggravation, since it can be a long process to get everything worked out.”
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — to request a security freeze, which prevents new credit authorizations without your consent. Brewer suggests visiting the website www.annualcreditreport.com.  Through the site, which was mandated by federal law in response to consumer outcry, you are entitled to receive one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus.

Brewer suggests viewing the credit reports on a computer you can print from – since you only get to check them once a year. “Look at the inquiries section of your report, and see which companies have looked at your credit,” Brewer says.

If a car dealership looked at your report but you didn’t go there, it’s a sign that the person with your card information went car shopping. Give these reports to the police; it will help them investigate your case.

Be sure to enroll in our newest, upgraded Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa – don’t wait until it’s too late! The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Ben Woolsey and Emily Starbuck Gerson for CreditCards.com, http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/credit-card-skimming-scam-1282.php

6 Things You Can Do to Ward Off ID Theft

magnifier_finger1. Be vigilant with your online information.

Only log into your online banking and financial institution sites from home or a secured location. This may seem simple, but it can be easy to forget.

2. Don’t use a debit card for online purchases.

A debit card is directly connected to your checking or savings account, so if there is fraud, your account can be drained — ouch!

A credit card is just that, credit. If there are purchases you don’t recognize, you can dispute them without your funds having already been withdrawn from your account. Consider having one credit card specifically for that purpose.

3. Monitor your accounts monthly.

When you go “paperless,” it can be easier to neglect checking your statements.  Be sure to review your bank accounts and credit card statements regularly to make sure they are correct and to watch for unauthorized purchases.

4. Simplify your financial information.

When you have multiple accounts and can fan out your credit cards like a deck of playing cards, it’s a challenge to stay on top of things. Consider paring down your accounts in order to better stay on top of them.

Also consider using an aggregation service, such as Mint.com, so all of your accounts and daily transactions are viewable with one single sign-in. This can help you easily stay on top of your account activity.

5. Check your credit information regularly and take advantage of free (or low-cost) credit monitoring services.

One problem with identity theft is that you may not know what you don’t know. If someone opens an account in your name and changes your address, you are left in the dark.

Subscribe to a credit monitoring service, like ID Theft Protection from First Financial. Don’t wait until it’s too late! Check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored and you can try it FREE for 90 days!*

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!**

6. If you see something, report it right away.

If you suspect that your identity has been compromised, you can place a fraud alert on your credit file by calling any one of the three major credit reporting agencies shown below. A fraud alert is a notation on your credit file to warn credit issuers that there may be a problem. The credit issuer is asked to contact you at the telephone number that you supply to validate that you are the person applying for the credit.

TransUnion: 1.800.916.8800

Experian: 1.888.397.3742

Equifax: 1.800.685.1111

In accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, it is permissible for consumers to request a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax).

To order a free credit report: www.annualcreditreport.com

*Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program. **Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions. 

Article Source: Nancy Anderson for Forbes.com, http://www.forbes.com/sites/nancyanderson/2015/06/13/7-things-you-can-do-to-ward-off-identity-theft/

 

10 Signs You Might Be a Victim of Identity Theft

download (1)Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, according to the credit bureau TransUnion, with almost 10 million incidents a year. In fact, the bureau calculates that every minute, 19 people become victims, and the average cost to the victim is $500 and 30 hours. ​

Those are some scary stats. The good news is that you can protect yourself by catching potential problems early and enlisting the support of your financial institution. Here are some tips for keeping your identity out of thieves’ hands:

  1. If you lose your credit card, let your card issuer know right away. Not only will the issuer cancel the card and get a new one with new numbers right away, but the customer service representative will let you know if any erroneous charges have already been made on the card and can ​prevent any new ones from going through.
  2. Avoid using ATMs in obscure locations because it’s easier for thieves to install “skimming” devices on them that steal your information when you swipe your card. According to Shaun Murphy​, founder of PrivateGiant, a company that seeks to protect personal information online, consumers should also avoid using their card on websites that do not have the “lock” icon in the browser, because they aren’t as secure as sites that have the icon.
  3. Check your account statements for errors. This is likely the first warning sign you’ll encounter. When checking your statement, you might see an unexplained or inaccurate entry – such as a withdrawal, a check, an electronic transaction or a purchase that you don’t recognize.
  4. Look for mistakes on your credit report. You can request a free copy of your credit report through annualcreditreport.com and review it for any inaccurate information. The most common indicators of identity theft include a credit inquiry you don’t recognize or a new account you didn’t open. That could suggest someone else is impersonating you. Let the credit bureaus know about any errors so the false information can be removed.
  5. Respond to calls from your financial institution. Financial institutions are constantly on the lookout for strange charges on your account; in fact, they might notice a problem before you do. If you receive a notice about a potential problem, be sure to call them back to sort it out. If the message comes in the form of an email, make sure it’s not a phishing email (where a fraudster masquerades as a trusted entity to try to acquire your personal information).
  6. Follow up on odd bills you receive. If you start getting calls from debt collectors related to accounts that don’t belong to you, or you receive bills for medical treatments you’ve never had, then someone else could be using your identity and your health insurance information. Follow up with the provider and your insurance company to protect your account.
  7. Stay on top of missing mail. If you don’t receive your bank statement by mail and you usually do, there could be a problem. The perpetrator may have changed your address with the financial institution. If other pieces of mail are missing, it may mean the perpetrator is collecting information about you to develop a profile. Similarly, if you don’t receive your email statement, someone may have conquered your online account and altered the settings to lock you out. Follow up directly with your financial institution or the biller to get the problem fixed.
  8. You receive unexpected mail. You might get a notice from the post office that your mail is being forwarded to another address when you haven’t requested an address change. Or you receive a letter concerning an account you never opened. Other mailings that could be a sign of identity theft: You receive a credit card in the mail that you never applied for or the IRS notifies you about unreported wage income you didn’t earn. If you find yourself in any of these situations, then it’s time to follow up with the institution sending the mail to clarify the issue.
  9. Look out for errors on your Social Security statement. If the earnings reported on your statement are greater than your actual earnings, someone might have stolen your Social Security Number and is using it for wage reporting services. It’s another red flag that there could be a problem that needs your attention.
  10. Investigate if you’re denied an application based on your credit. If you have good credit but are denied an application for a new credit card or a loan, that may indicate that your identity has been stolen. It’s time to pull your credit report and do a full review of all your accounts to get to the bottom of the problem.

With these strategies in hand, you can help reduce your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored and you can try it FREE for 90 days!* To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!**

*Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program. **Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

This article is courtesy of US News: Money.

330,000 Possibly Affected by IRS Data Breach

data breachA breach of an IRS computer database reported in May 2015 affected as many as 330,000 taxpayers, reports said Monday, August 17th.

Reports this past May said that thieves used stolen Social Security Numbers and other information in an effort to access prior-year tax return information for about 225,000 U.S. households. This included about 114,000 successful and 111,000 unsuccessful attempts, the report said.

The IRS has now said a review going back to November 2014 shows that another 390,000 taxpayers may have been affected, new reports say – including some 220,000 households for which prior-year return data may have been accessed and another 170,000 instances where there were attempts that failed to clear the authentication process.

The breaches involved use of an online application, “Get Transcript,” that allowed taxpayers to get prior-year return information, the reports said. This application has reportedly been shut down.

The IRS reportedly also noted that while just a few thousand of affected taxpayer accounts were targeted in efforts to defraud, it thinks hackers may be gathering data to use for fraudulent purposes during the 2016 tax-filing season.

If you suspect that your identity has been compromised, you can place a fraud alert on your credit file by calling any one of the three major credit reporting agencies shown below. A fraud alert is a notation on your credit file to warn credit issuers that there may be a problem. The credit issuer is asked to contact you at the telephone number that you supply to validate that you are the person applying for the credit. This is not the same as credit monitoring.

TransUnion: 1.800.916.8800

Experian: 1.888.397.3742    

Equifax: 1.800.685.1111

In accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, it is permissible for consumers to request a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax).

To order a free credit report: 

Online: www.annualcreditreport.com or by Telephone: 1.877.322.8228

First Financial would like to remind our members that your accounts with us are monitored 24/7 by an experienced team of security professionals for any suspicious or potentially fraudulent activity. First Financial employs the most advanced fraud detection and prevention technology to guard members’ accounts against unauthorized access and use. If our security team observes any unusual activity on member accounts, we will contact members immediately to determine whether the transaction activity is legitimate and authorized.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored and you can try it FREE for 90 days!*

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!**

We will continue to monitor all members’ accounts for suspicious activity. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please give us a call at 866.750.0100 or email us at info@firstffcu.com. Thank you for being a valued member of First Financial.

*Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program. **Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

 

Learn How to Avoid ID Theft at This Free Seminar in May 2015

Identity Theft on Dark Digital Background.Identity theft is the fasting growing crime in the United States and about 19 people per minute fall victim to identity theft.* First Financial encourages you to be cautious – especially when it comes to the Internet and now even on your mobile phone, and always be on the lookout for instances of fraud. This free seminar will teach attendees about important preventative measures.

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • The best way to safeguard your personal information
  • Common warning signs of identity theft
  • How you can defend yourself from identity theft
  • How to react if you suspect identity theft
  • The most common ways identity theft occurs

Join us on Thursday, May 7th at 6:00pm for our free consumer seminar, How to Avoid Identity Theft, presented by the experts at First Financial. The seminar will be held at our Neptune Branch located at 783 Wayside Road. We invite you to bring a guest but space is limited, so make sure you sign up today!

*Click here to view fact source.

Beware of Counterfeit Clothes and Scam Websites

womanshpgonlineDuring the holiday shopping season it’s important to know that there are scam artists out there who will try to take advantage of you. Be on your guard from a new influx of counterfeit clothes and scam websites. The internet has been a great asset to US clothing shoppers looking for good buys on the best brands. Unfortunately, it has also been a great asset to criminals dealing in counterfeit clothes they try to pass off as the real thing. While the illegal market in fake top brand clothing predates the World Wide Web, the Internet has opened up new avenues of opportunity for those dealing in counterfeit clothes.

The United States has seen a large rise in 2014 of scam websites that typically promise that popular and expensive items of clothing manufactured by the best known brands can be had at bargain prices. They often have fake web addresses that falsely give the impression that they are operating in the US, when in fact the website owners may be scammers operating out of other countries.

The quality of the clothes is often far below the standards set by the real manufacturers, with some websites operating with no actual inventory. Consumers order, their money is accepted, but they never receive anything at all.

The dealing in counterfeit clothes is not some small scale operation. The sums of money involved are huge, with some estimates putting the total take of larger scam websites at millions of dollars per year. The counterfeit clothes racket also ties into other criminal activities, such as banking fraud and identity theft. Once you give a criminal organization your credit card number, there are a wide array of illegal ways it can be used to rob you again.

Because the clothing scam websites are located overseas, it can be all but impossible to complain about poor quality, orders never received or seek relief in the United States legal system. Even reporting the scammers to the law enforcement agencies of the countries from which they operate will seldom bring any results. Sometimes action can be taken to deregister the scam sites so that others won’t get duped, but even this can be ineffective.

The market for counterfeit clothes is not confined to the United States. In Great Britain last year, hundreds of scam shopping websites were closed for selling fake designer clothing and jewelry. In Ireland, poorly made counterfeit clothing became so widespread that the European Consumer Centre made a special plea to consumers to be cautious when buying clothes online.

The center strongly advises “consumers to do comprehensive research on a trader when shopping on the Internet” a spokeswoman said. She continued to suggest that customer look for contact details, as any missing information is a red flag.

It’s also important to know what too look for with counterfeit products. Examine the product as closely as you can online, counterfeit designer goods often have logos that are fuzzy, misspelled, or otherwise off from the brand, something a high quality designer would never allow to ship. The stitching on counterfeit merchandise is often sloppy. If you can see the stitching without much effort, it is nearly guaranteed to be a fake.

Caution should always be used online, but becoming familiar with the genuine product and examining potential deals is one of the best ways to stay safe.

As counterfeit production becomes more elaborate, the proper tags do not necessarily mean a genuine product. As a result, many manufacturers of high quality clothing have taken extra steps to ensure their product stands out. Holographic logos and serial numbers are just a few methods that can ensure a legitimate purchase. Know the designer’s key marks and beware of products that lack them.

Be cautious of high fashion clothing being advertised at greatly reduced prices and only pay using a secure, refundable, method such as a credit card or a secure service such as PayPal.

Make sure you use online retailers that do provide genuine merchandise at a discount. In the end, you’re your own best advocate to prevent getting scammed. Use your common sense and know what you’re buying, and remember the old saying that “if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Protect yourself this holiday season and all year-round with First Financial’s ID Theft Protection! With our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored and you can try it FREE for 90 days!*

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!**

*Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program. **Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

Original article source courtesy of Lori Kelley of SavingAdvice.com.