RENO, NV - It's shopping season, and that means it's prime time for crooks who are looking to steal your debit or credit card information. Skimmers can leave you with drained accounts and a cascade of overdraft fees. Odds are it's happened to you or someone you know. A hidden device called a skimmer is used to steal your account access information when you make a purchase.
Most of the devices are placed on top of or over the card reader at an ATM or other point of purchase. The Washoe County Cybers Crimes Unit says, in our area, you're most likely to be hit while you're filling up your tank. Luckily, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. Sgt. Dennis Carry, of the Washoe County Sheriff's Office Cyber Crimes Unit, says using your card as credit instead of debit will reduce your odds of getting skimmed, and it will give you and the bank more time to catch fraudulent charges, preventing your bank account from being drained.
He also suggests going inside to pay the attendant with your card, or simply use cash. Carry says the skimming device can sometimes be easily removed by simply jiggling the card reader with your hand before you swipe. So give it a tug before you swipe.
Catching these crooks can be especially difficult because once they have your information, they may hold it for weeks before using it. In addition, many of the operations are run by gangs based in Eastern European Countries like Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria, where black markets exist to buy and sell your information.
The good news is most major banks will not hold you responsible for fraudulent charges, as long as you report them quickly, so remember to be vigilant about checking your bank statement for mistakes.