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Credit Card Fraud on the Rise in Northeast, SouthwestIdentity theft has become a major problem in the U.S. that many financial institutions and government agencies are striving to prevent, and it seems that one type in particular has grown rather popular in the northeastern part of the country.

Payment card fraud — including identity theft on debit and credit accounts — is on the rise in 20 states nationwide, a large number of which are in the Northeast, located along the eastern seaboard, and in the Southwest, according to new data from the credit scoring firm FICO. For instance, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Vermont, and Pennsylvania all saw increases in instances of this type of crime last year. Other jumps were observed in Virginia and North Carolina, as well as Texas, Arizona and Nevada.

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However, it should be noted that another 20 states also saw rates of fraud decline, and that included California, New Jersey, Illinois, and Connecticut, among others, the report said. The remaining 10 saw relatively no change in their fraud rates, including Florida.

Free Credit Check & MonitoringFlorida and California also had some of the greatest instances of debit card fraud, largely through skimming incidents at merchant point-of-sale card readers, bank ATMs, and privately owned ATMs, the report said. Michigan also saw a relatively large number of these problems. In all, skimming at bank-run ATMs accounted for 46 percent of all such crimes reported nationwide, with another 36 percent coming from retailers’ machines, and the remaining 18 from other ATM devices. Overall, though, the number of these incidents was down from 2011, when 79 percent of all skimming was done using POS terminals.

That change indicates that criminals may be growing more savvy about how they approach this type of fraud, and are targeting other types of devices that consumers may be more apt to trust than a card reader at a retailer of any kind, the report said. Further, it is also difficult to predict exactly where this type of fraud will take place, because in 2011, ATM skimming scams were extremely common in the Pacific Northwest, and only a few such incidents were reported in Washington last year.

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Consumers should keep close tabs on their bank accounts and credit cards to identify any potential signs of fraud before they become a significant problem or cannot be remediated by the financial institutions controlling those accounts.

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