Detecting card skimmers could prevent theft of funds

Detective Cordell Hoth holds a credit card reader in one hand and a skimmer in the other. The first thing he does when he uses a credit card machine is check it out to see if it has been tampered with.

LOGAN – In December, Logan Police reported a credit card skimming device at a local convenience store along a busy highway.

A skimming device sits on top of a payment terminal. A skilled perpetrator can attach the skimmer before the cashier knows what has happened.

Logan City Police Detective Andrew Soelberg said skimming is always going on somewhere in the country.

“People with skimmers do a circuit,” he said. “They fly in to Salt Lake City, rent a car, drive into a city and drop off as many devices as they can.”

Soelberg said the devices are becoming more sophisticated, they are even finding some with Bluetooth technology. The devices are also disposable. The perpetrator can distract a cashier and attach the skimming device to the payment terminal before the cashier is the wiser.

“What we are seeing right now is the ones that are slipped over the top of a legitimate one,” he said. “The only way to tell its legitimate is to make sure it is secure.”

The cover can be attached to the existing payment terminal with double-sided tape in a few seconds. To detect a skimmer, feel around the edges. If you can get your fingers under it and lift it, there is a problem.

“When the card is scanned, the magnetic strip on one the side of the device lets people gather all of the information on the card they need,” he said.  “After they have the information, they sell it to someone else, then they continue the circuit in a different location.”

Right now most of the skimmer operations are inside stores, Soelberg said. For a while we were seeing them at the gas pumps. Tape or a sticker was put across the device and if the tape was broken or if it showed other signs of tampering, there could be problem.

Detective Cordell Hoth said the first thing he does when he uses a credit card machine is give it a big tug or try to get his fingers along the side of the device to see if it comes loose.

Hoth said there are also thermal imaging apps on phones that can detect pin numbers on the keypads.

“The tap to pay apps like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay and others are single time use transactions, they are usually okay.”

He said the scammers generally use the card a state or two away, and the transaction won’t show up right away. If not checked, it can become a real problem.

Logan City Police Detective Andrew Soelberg shows how a skimmer can be separated from the base of payment terminal.

“Watch your account and keep in contact with your bank,” Hoth said. “Perpetrators can use the account for months before you find it and they can be a couple of states away.”

If your credit card has been compromised, the Federal Trade Commission suggests reporting it to your bank or card issuer. Federal law limits the cardholder’s liability if your credit, ATM, or debit card is lost or stolen, but the cardholder’s liability may depend on how quickly you report the loss or theft.

The ATM industry reported in 2015 skimmers accounted for 30 percent of all data fraud causing more than $2 billion in losses annually.

 

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