Thieves target debit card users with skimmers - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Thieves target debit card users with skimmers

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ATLANTA -

Better technology makes it easier for thieves to get access to your money.  They're going where you go -- to restaurants, gas stations, and even to the ATM, where they use easy-to-buy machines called skimmers to capture your credit or debit card information.

FOX I-Team reporter Dana Fowle talked to the Secret Service, which investigates this problem, and she found some simple ways for you to protect yourself.

Skimmers come in all shapes and sizes.   While they might be fake, they look real enough to get the job done— the job of stealing your money.

"As you turn it over, you would be able to see where they've affixed different materials that would allow them to steal your car number or capture or store it until they come back and download it later," said Agent Malcolm Wiley of the Atlanta Secret Service, a group often associated with guarding the president.

The Atlanta Secret Service is also in charge of watching your money by investigating financial crimes, and Wiley says he has seen skimming cases rise with the ease of getting this technology.  

So, here is what the Secret Service recommends:  First, use a busy ATM.  Scammers don't want to be seen setting up shop, so they pick slower, out of the way machines.  Once you pick an ATM, rattle the card reader. Make sure it's not loose, and that it is the machine's real cover.  You also need to look around for loose panels around the machine.

 "As you turn the machine over you see how it's been jerry-rigged," Wiley said, showing us a skimmer.  "This machine will allow them to capture your PIN as you insert your card into an ATM machine."

So whether it's at an ATM or a gas station, put your hand over the machine as you type in your PIN.  Make it a habit, he says.

A recent skimming case in Atlanta though didn't involve an ATM at all, but rather an upscale restaurant.  Atlanta Police say the waitress stole the credit car information from six executives at Turner Broadcasting as well as a GBI agent.  It wasn't a Secret Service case, but Agent Wiley knows how it works.  He says a waiter or waitress will have a hand-held skimming device, and when you give them your credit card for your meal, they will swipe your card information through a storage device as they make their way to actually charge your card for the meal.  He says they'll do that several times during a shift, and then they'll give that information to someone who downloads the numbers and sells your credit card information.    

Some skimmers are small enough to fit on your phone, and they can cost as little as $10.  

Atlanta Police say the lesson here is not to use your debit card in restaurants or at gas stations.  The risk is just too great.

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