[custom_frame_left][/custom_frame_left]It took my parents a long time to embrace technology. I think my mom finally understands Facebook and they can now navigate the Internet without too much help. And after months of phone calls to my brother and me, they’ve finally mastered their smart phones.
Now that they’ve accepted modern day technology, my mom has fully embraced the email forwarding phenomenon. I’m constantly getting emails about heart attack detection, protecting yourself from attacks at gas stations, detecting cancer, and everything else you can imagine.
To be honest, most of the time I skim them, then delete them. I haven’t yet convinced her to accept the fact that not all of that information is accurate so I just take it for what it’s worth and move on.
But last week she sent me something that I thought was interesting. It was a warning about using your credit card in restaurants and other retail establishments. I knew, of course, about protecting yourself from identity theft online, but I had never really considered it dangerous to use a credit or debit card away from my computer. The email outlined some very interesting and innovative ways that restaurant employees are stealing credit and debit card information from customers.
I did some research and while I couldn’t verify everything in the email, I did find that some of these scams have been documented and are actually happening. Here is a list of some of the most common ways thieves are able to access your credit or debit card information when you make purchases at a restaurant or retail store:
Skimmers – Skimmers are small devices that look just like a regular credit card reader. When a card is swiped through a skimmer, it takes all of your account information which the thieves can then use to make purchases. They’re small enough that workers can swipe your card for your actual purchase, and then quickly swipe it through the skimmer. Unless you were watching closely, you would probably never even notice the second swipe.
Cell Phones – Sometimes workers can do something as simple as snap a picture of your credit card and then use the information later. A more technologically savvy thief can use Bluetooth technology that works just like a skimmer. As your card is swiped for your actual purchase, the Bluetooth program is pulling out all of your information and downloading it onto the thief’s phone.
Hacking – Many restaurants and small retail stores don’t have sophisticated security measures in place to protect customers’ credit card information. A capable hacker could hack the system, gaining access to thousands of credit and debit card numbers.
Receipts – Some establishments may print out your credit card information on your receipt. If you leave the extra copies there, workers can easily pocket them and have access to your account information.
So how do you protect yourself? With these scams, you continue to have the card in your possession, so you would probably not even be aware that someone had your information. Experts say that checking your bank and credit card statements frequently – multiple times a week – is the best way to protect yourself. It’s the only way you’ll know if purchases are being made by someone else. If you wait until your monthly statement is available a thief could rack up thousands of dollars on your card.
Some additional tips include taking all copies of your receipt with you and if your entire account number is on the receipt you have to leave with the merchant, cross out all numbers but the last four. Finally, if possible, watch as your transaction is processed to make sure your card isn’t run through a skimmer.