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Fraud Prevention

Debit and Credit Card Skimming

March 02, 2010

Credit cards and debit cards have become the most popular payment options for Canadians. Most people today prefer paying with plastic to handing over cash and cheques. At the same time, the incidents of debit and credit card fraud are also growing.

As there has been a growing number of debit and credit card skimming being reported, we would like to make you aware of what ‘skimming’ is and how you can minimize the risk of becoming a victim.

Skimming occurs when the information contained on your debit card is stolen and then counterfeited and used to obtain funds from your account without your authorization. Card reading devices are used to obtain the electronic data from the magnetic stripe on your card, and hidden cameras or false personal identification number (PIN) pads are used to obtain your personal access code.

Skimming can occur at an ATM where a card reader is placed on the ATM itself, or the entrance door to the ATM. A hidden pinhole camera is used to capture your PIN. It can also take place at point-of-sale (POS) terminals; the merchant usually swipes your card in the legitimate POS terminal, and then swipes your card a second time in a card reading device. The three ways that your PIN can be obtained is by a video camera, someone watching you, or a false PIN pad.

There are many ways you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim of debit and credit card skimming. The easiest is to learn to recognize the various forms of card fraud and use the preventative tips provided below.

  • Keep your card in a safe place and never lend it to anyone.
  • Protect your PIN; it is the key security feature on your debit card. Use your hand, body or wallet to shield your PIN when using an ATM or POS terminal.
  • Always memorize your PIN. Never write it down, and don’t use a number that would be easily identified. (i.e.: date of birth, address or phone number)
  • Changing your PIN regularly will help reduce the risk of card skimming.
  • Never disclose your PIN. No one from a financial institution, police service, or business should ever ask for your PIN.
  • Look for physical alterations on ATM and POS terminals. If they look suspicious do not use them and inform the financial institution or merchant immediately.
  • Keep an eye on your debit card when conducting a transaction; only allow your card to be swiped once. Whenever possible, swipe the card yourself and remember to take your card and the transaction record with you when you leave.
  • Be alert. Make sure no one is looking over your shoulder. If someone is watching you or makes you feel uncomfortable, cancel the transaction and use a different machine.
  • Always conduct your ATM transactions when and where you feel most secure. If you feel uncomfortable using a specific machine, use it later or go to another location.
  • Check your bank account regularly and compare your transaction records against your financial statements. If you detect any unusual account activity, contact your branch immediately.
  • If you are having trouble using an ATM, DON’T ask the person in line behind you for help. Go into the credit union or financial institution and ask a teller for help and training on how to use the machine. Never trust a stranger.

If you believe you have been victimized by a skimming operation, please contact Christian Credit Union.


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