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Credit skimmers: theft hidden in plain sight

They're often hidden in plain sight. Credit card skimmers are stealing roughly 50 million dollars every year. Are you protected?

Posted: Nov. 10, 2017 12:08 AM
Updated: Nov. 10, 2017 8:37 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT)- Every day, millions of people all around the United States swipe their credit cards, not thinking twice that someone may have stolen their information. 

"And it's not obvious? Oh, that's scary," said Carol Newell, one local resident who has never thought to check a gas pump or ATM for skimmers. 

Credit card skimmers are a way thieves are getting account information and hacking into your bank account, by attaching them to gas pumps, ATMs, and any other place you might swipe. 

"We've not seen the level that maybe some other metropolitan areas have seen it, but we have seen it here at least a handful of times," said Sergeant Ron Galaviz with the Indiana State Police. 

Galaviz said incidents often go unreported. 

"We need to be very careful about protecting our credit card information and our information as a whole, so these criminals don't go out and get the things that we work so hard to provide ourselves," Galaviz said. 

A credit card skimmer will often be a black piece of plastic that blends in well with the card reader. When you pull up to the pump or ATM, give the reader a jiggle, if it comes off, it may be a skimmer. 

"Could it mean that someone has tried to manipulate it? Maybe, but nonetheless, they still need to know that their equipment may not be functioning properly," Galaviz said. 

Officer Michael Joyner, with the Fort Wayne Police Department, said these skimmers are incredibly advanced, and they're not the only way thieves are stealing information. 

"They do not physically have to remove the device or the skimmer. They can upload it into their smart phone," Joyner said. 

Joyner said it's safer to use cash if you have it, or swipe your card inside the store. He also warned against touch pad devices that can take your information without swiping. 

"In that signal is embedded all of your credit card information, and then they turn around and go on the computer, and have a shopping day of their choice, until you find out that you've been a victim of credit card theft," Joyner said. 

Joyner said every time you stand in line at a store with your card out, or open a tab at a bar, you become a target. 

"I have no idea who that individual is, I don't know what their background is. I don't know anybody in any employment that might ask for that card to be held. No, thank you. I will pay as I go," Joyner said. 

Marjorie Stephens, with the Better Business Bureau, said in 2016 around 50 million dollars was stolen from people, and thieves can even clone your card, and make new versions on the black market. 

"The good news is there [is] a lot of surveillance, but the problem is maybe they're already into your account," Stephens said. 

Stephens said she always uses a chip in her card, and closely monitors her account, but even the experts are no strangers to theft. 

"It happened to me this summer. I lost $400 to a card that was stolen, and $400 for a hotel room," Stephens said. 

Stephens said banks are usually on top of it, but you should contact them immediately if you think your account has been compromised.

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