ID thieves target card machines

Posted on: 18 January 2010 by Mark O'haire

Fraudsters are now trying to grab your card details through an even more sophisticated scam.

Criminals have been tampering with card payment terminals to steal card and account data.

The scam, uncovered by the BBC's Money Box, involves fake engineers turning up at shops and taking terminals away to be "repaired".

Instead, they set them up to copy and store details of every card that is inserted in the machine.

The information cannot be used to duplicate a chip and PIN-protected UK card but can be encoded on the magnetic stripe of a blank card, which is then used to withdraw cash in countries where chip and PIN security has not been introduced.

Criminals target cards

"Cards are a favourite target because credit cards can give access to large amounts of cash, while a debit card is directly linked to your bank account, which criminals can clear out," says Peter Turner, managing director of the identity fraud protection service CreditExpert.

"That could be the start of a larger ID fraud, with criminals enjoying a spending spree on the Internet, by mail order or impersonating you to open new credit accounts.

"You have to fight to clear your name and your credit rating is trashed until you can set the record straight."

So play it safe when it comes to your plastic - both at home and when you're using it to pay. These tips should help.

  1. Don't let your card out of your sight in shops, restaurants or hotels. If your card is taken away, a member of staff could be copying the information in the magnetic stripe. The data could then be used in exactly the same way as the information captured from dodgy terminals.
  2. Don't carry a walletful of plastic if you won't be using it. Pick-pockets and sneak thieves are especially active in busy shopping areas, restaurants and cafés.
  3. Watch out for shoulder-surfers trying to get a look at your PIN in shops and at cash machines. Once a thief has your PIN, he or she is more likely to steal the card to go with it and can use your card in any shop.
  4. Never write down your PIN. Learn it instead. And never share your PIN with anyone else.
  5. Don't use the same PIN for several cards - if it's compromised, it could be the key to your finances.
  6. Check your bank and card statements carefully, comparing them with your receipts and proofs of purchase. Query any transactions you don't recognise with your card issuer.
  7. Always shred your card and bank statements before throwing them away - you could lose your money and your identity if you don't. Thieves raid bins and recycling looking for useful documents.
  8. Use the latest security software on your computer if you shop, manage your cards or bank online. Don't store card details alongside passwords or PINs - if your PC gets a virus, hackers could acquire everything they need to clean you out.
  9. Don't give too much information away on social networks, especially items such as dates of birth or anniversaries that you use as PINs. Crooks check these sites frequently in the hope that they'll find information that can help them.
  10. Check your credit report regularly. This is the history of your credit accounts, including the outstanding balance on your credit cards and details of any new applications for credit. If you spot anything unfamiliar or suspicious, contact the card issuer immediately.

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