Monday, September 10, 2007

Identity Theft Alert

As many of you know, there has been a huge surge in identity theft over the past few years. Studies have shown that every person in the United States and Canada will have their personal information compromised at some point of their lives and some folks will suffer serious financial losses.
Dan recently told me about one of the latest concerns in the law enforcement community. It involves credit or debit cards and the use of a small, handheld device called a "card reader" very similar to the one pictured here.

The card reader plugs into a PDA or cell phone. The thief makes a deal with an employee of a retail or service business such as a waitress, retail clerk, or gas station attendant.

The typical scenario is as follows: The waitress brings the bill to the table, then tells the customer that she will take payment to the front when the customer is ready. The customer takes his credit card out of his wallet, hands it to the waitress, who then walks away. On her way to the cash register, she swipes the card through the card reader, which in turn stores all of the information from the magnetic strip on the credit card. The credit card is then charged and returned to the unsuspecting customer. He puts the card back into his wallet, totally unaware that it has now been compromised. At the end of the shift, the waitress meets the thief who pays her $25 or more for each card swiped. He then makes a duplicate card using hotel key blanks and uses it at gasoline stations or other locations which don't require a PIN number. The spending spree continues until the theft is discovered (usually when the billing statement arrives) and the original account is closed. In the meantime, the thief has had ample time to put significant purchases on the account.

Prevention is the key. No matter how many times you have been to a restaurant, store, service station, etc., NEVER allow your credit card to be taken out of your sight. Personally carry it to the cash register and watch as it is swiped through that business's card reader. Insist on a receipt and write the name of the cashier on that receipt. If unauthorized transactions do occur, those receipts will assist law enforcement in tracing back to the time of the compromise.

The bottom line is we all must be very careful of our personal information in the age of microchips, scanners, bluetooth technology and micro-processors.


zquilts said...

No one who has not been through this can really appreciate what a hell it is to get through if it happens to you ! My ex threatened to destroy my credit and he did it ! It's taken 12 years to begin to crawl out ! Be careful and don;t be sentimental about your identity !

Sharon said...


A huge THANK YOU for putting that information out there. I had no idea that was going on. We will be much more cautious from now on.

uberstrickenfrau said...

wow. I will be much more careful now, what a crazy world we live in.

Yarnhog said...

Thanks for the tips. May I add, if you have any reason to believe your card(s) may have been compromised--in my case, my wallet was stolen, but it could be anything--immediately notify all three credit reporting bureaus and ask them to flag your account. You can do this online and it costs you nothing. When your account is flagged, your card can only be used with a picture ID or with telephone verification by the credit card company, and any attempts to open new account or borrow money in your name will be treated to extra scrutiny. You also get free credit reports for 6 months from all the credit bureaus, so that you can see if there is any unauthorized activity, like new accounts opened or attempts to take out loans in your name.

HomeJewel said...

Thank you for sharing this information - scary, but important! I'm going to tell my husband, too.