During the holiday shopping season, millions of consumers use their credit or debit cards to make purchases at their favorite retailers as they hustle to cross everyone off their shopping list, but experts warn that doing so might come with an inherent risk.
Because so many people use their cards to finance purchases at this time of year, it’s also the season for criminals to increase their hacking efforts, and that can lead to significant financial trouble for consumers, according to a report from the Gaston Gazette. Experts from the Better Business Bureau of Charlotte, North Carolina, say that skimming scams are making a big comeback this winter as thieves try to hack into card-reading point of sale terminals in an effort to get a big, easy score in their fraud efforts. Data from PNC Bank shows that reports of lost or stolen credit card numbers surge 19 percent in November and December.
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There are some signs that a machine might have been hacked, however, the report said. For instance, if it asks for more information than a shopper is used to giving — such as a phone number or ZIP code instead of their standard PIN — then that might be a virus installed on the device that’s designed to steal as much of a person’s information as possible. Further, if a device appears as though it has been tampered with in any way, then it’s possible that a scammer might have tried to insert some fraudulent equipment into it.
The problem with this kind of fraud in particular, though, is that often a victim won’t know they’ve been ripped off for some time, the report said. One of the best ways to do so is by routinely checking one’s credit card and checking statements to determine if there have been any charges put on the accounts that the victim doesn’t recognize. If so, it’s a good idea to contact the company that issued the document as quickly as possible.
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Skimming scams typically involve a criminal loading a device or piece of malware onto a point of sale card reader. This is most commonly practiced with items like gas pumps and ATMs, particularly those that are located away from public view.
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