Don't be a skimming victim

Hand holding gold credit card

Sharp workers at a Chase Bank branch in San Diego recently noticed an uptick of fraud occurring on weekends.

A 49-year-old man was charged last month with stealing the PIN numbers from about 1,000 customers' accounts by installing a skimmer on the bank’s lobby ATM machine along with a hidden camera aimed at the machine's keypad.

Prosecutors allege the man was able to steal well more than $100,000.

A Chase branch in Lynnwood, Wash., outside Seattle, also recently experienced an uptick in weekend skimming crimes, which led to the arrest of a 42-year-old woman.

So what exactly is skimming?

Skimming involves placing a small device over the ATM card slot or a store's credit card reader.

The skimmer captures your card’s account number; in some cases, a tiny camera captures your PIN number.

And, in a matter of seconds, thieves have all the information they need to transfer onto a dummy card to swipe at stores or shop online, making it easy to rack up hundreds or thousands of dollars of bills in your name.

One reason skimming is becoming so popular is the skimmers are easily found. A quick Internet search and the willingness to plunk down around $500 and would-be thieves can score a skimming device.

But that doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to this identity theft scam.

These tips will reduce the odds you’ll become the victim of a skimming crime:

Give a tug. Before swiping your card, give a gentle tug on the card reader slot. Often the skimmer will come off right in your hand. If that happens, call the police and/or notify bank personnel (if the bank is open).

Look for resistance. The skimming devices might block the ATM machine’s ability to read your card accurately, so you’ll receive an error message to swipe your card again. If that happens, go inside (if the bank is open) or go to another ATM at a different bank or store.

Use two hands. Use one hand to cover the keypad (as much as possible) when entering your PIN number. That way, if there is a skimmer (and you don’t notice it), the thief won’t be able to duplicate your card because he couldn’t nab your PIN number.

Keep your card in sight. Most skimming occurs when a corrupt employee takes your card and swipes it through a reader. You are particularly vulnerable at restaurants since the waiter or waitress walks away with your card when you settle the bill.

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