By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
It’s no surprise that with the use of technology on the rise, so are the scams taking advantage of these convenient payment methods. With the ease of paying at the fuel pumps, grocery stores, restaurants, and any other department store, checks and cash requiring a transaction between two parties are becoming a thing of the past. This makes it quite easy for scammers to swipe your confidential information.
Think about it. You and your family go out of town and eat at a restaurant. The pleasant wait staff offers to take your card to pay your bill at a register around a corner out of direct site. With cell phones always on their owner, how hard is it for them to take a photo of the front and back of your debit or credit card? Just like that, you paid for their new big screen plasma television. While there are good fraud protective services associated with several major credit card companies that flags any inconsistencies in your spending, it would be easy for smaller purchases to go unnoticed.
Unlawful citizens have unimaginable access to ways to scam hard working citizens out of their earned wages. Just from doing a search for this article on card skimming statistics, some of the common related searches on this topic was entitled “how to make credit card skimmer” and “credit card skimmer for sale”. It’s really a shame that people who have the intelligence to manufacture such devices cannot use their knowledge for the greater good and strive off of those who work to support their family.
Unfortunately, there are several Tucker County residents who have fell victim to card skimming including Daniele Wilfong. She travelled to North Carolina back in the Fall to watch the season opener between the WVU Mountaineers and the Tennessee Volunteers where she used an ATM to have some spending cash on hand. Upon returning home, she noticed a charge for a dollar and change that she didn’t recall making, however due to the small amount she didn’t think much more about it. “Little did I know, that was the test for scammers. They saw I didn’t flag it and that’s when the charges of hundreds started pouring in,” recalled Wilfong. Thankfully her card company canceled the card and put a stop on all pending transactions, however there was still a sixty to ninety day wait to be reimbursed for all of the fraudulent charges.
Wilfong’s bad luck didn’t stop there. “In October, my wallet was stolen. It had my ID in it, my credit card and my canceled debit card from the skimming incident in September (I was still waiting for a new card),” she said. Being her debit card was already canceled, she didn’t expect any further issues, but that wasn’t the case. The thief did in fact try to use her canceled debit card. “Where it was canceled, the charge didn’t go through. However, they sent a paper bill to the card owner’s address…you guessed it…me,” she said. Wilfong received a bill from FedEx in the amount of $400. “I was able to file it as fraud and get it taken care of thankfully,” she added. She is still having issues as the perpetrator has recently attempted to open another credit card using her information. Fortunately, she has invested in fraud protection since then and it was immediately denied. “I have since then, tried to transition to using cash almost always. It is just safer in protecting your savings and protecting your identity,” she said. Wilfong concluded, “If using plastic, I was told that it is best to use a credit card just because they can replenish the money stolen immediately.”
Another incident occurred when Pam Nestor, employee of Jim’s All Star (aka Propst), purchased Christmas gifts. The company used encountered a security breech where all customers who placed orders had their payment information swiped and attempted to be used. Fortunately, Nestor’s particular credit card company caught the attempted fraud and put an immediate stop to the issue.
Tucker County 911 Director Brett Ware has also fallen victim to these crimes. While traveling over the Christmas holiday, like most drivers he used his debit card to pay at the pump to fill up his gas tank. On his way to North Carolina, he made a stop just south of Richmond, Va. at a station that left the pumps operable after hours. “In most circumstances, I always grab a hold of the card reader and give it a gentle wiggle to see if there is anything loose,” he explained. “However, it being around 2 a.m., I was a bit nervous during my fill up. I was the only person at the gas station at that time and it was poorly lit,” he recalled. Ware quickly began his transaction while returning to his car until his tank was full. He didn’t use his debit card again until he returned to one of the local gas stations in Tucker County when his card was declined. “Almost immediately after being declined, I received a phone call from the fraud department of my bank,” he said. It was noted his card was utilized in Illinois just moments before he swiped his card which resulted in the freezing of his account for the company to verify the purchases.
When Ware accessed his account information, he had seen where his card was used over the course of a week in Illinois, all for sums of $100. “They depleted my account,” stated Ware. Fortunately, the bank did reimburse Ware, however it did take two weeks to do so. “During which time, I had to make contact to several individuals and businesses that I had wrote checks to out of that account,” he explained. “I cannot describe how violated I felt during that time. I felt as if I couldn’t even afford a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread,” he stated. Given Ware’s profession with the 911 and working closely with the Office of Emergency Management, he was able to share valuable information regarding card fraud. “The security of our debit and credit cards depends on our ability to recognize suspicious situation,” he said. While the bank was able to return his funds, it doesn’t help with the feeling of insecurity it brings every time you swipe your card. “This experience has changed the way I travel. I encourage all to take extra precautions when utilizing card transactions.” he said.
So how can we protect ourselves from finding hacked bank accounts and frozen funds we can’t access to pay our bills? First option is to use more cash or checks as method of payment instead of swiping your card. Unfortunately, that takes away the convenience factor of having a debit or credit card in the first place. Prior to using your card, inspect the slide and the keypad thoroughly. Make sure there is nothing overlaying the keypad or inside the machine. Take hold of the card reader and wiggle it, just as Ware recommended, making sure everything feels secure and legitimate. If you insert your card and something doesn’t feel right, such as it felt as if your card didn’t glide smoothly or hit a snag, remove the card, cancel the transaction, and alert the proper authorities to investigate. As technology evolves, there are skimmer detector apps becoming available on smart devices. Always keep track of your spending by online bank ledgers or keeping track of your monthly bank statements. If anything seems out of the ordinary, contact your bank or credit card company immediately.