AT A GLANCE
Tips for avoiding card fraud
When criminals go to such efforts that they place card-skimming devices inside a gas pump to collect account numbers, like they did in Oklahoma and Arkansas recently, customers don't have many options for ensuring the safety of their data. However, there are some things that people can do to keep their account information for debit and credit cards safer. Here are some tips, gleaned from various sources, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Roberts in Muskogee and Chester Wisniewski, senior security adviser for the enterprise computer security company Sophos Inc. (the company uses its blog, “Naked Security,” to inform readers about fraud, computer threats and other scams):
• When placing your card into a card reader at a gas station pump, ATM or anywhere else, wiggle the card reader. “If it moves, don't put your card in,” Wisniewski said. It could be a loose-fitting card reader placed over the real one. Also watch for pinhole cameras hidden in attached strips above the keypad in ATMs.
• Be wary of using cash machines or standup machines at a bar or nightclub or even in a convenience store, Wisniewski said. Often, by the time an independent operator pays the money to buy those machines, they're left alone and not updated or replaced regularly for security reasons. In addition, machines like those are mass-produced, which means that fake card readers used to skim account data can be, too.
• Don't ever use debit cards for transactions at card readers. “It can go really nasty if your debit card is compromised,” Wisniewski said. Roberts also said not to use cards that require entering PINs. “I use my credit card at the pump every day, but I don't use my debit,” he said.
• Avoid gas station pumps that are unmanned at particular times, Roberts said. “I try not to use gas stations that are open 24 hours, or if I do, I try to use one that's nearest to the door,” Roberts said.
• If you see someone standing in front of an ATM for long periods of time or using multiple cards at once, report the activity to law enforcement agents and get the person's license tag number if you can.
• Be alert, suggests banker Scott Flowers, executive vice president and chief banking officer of First United Bank of Duncan. Pay attention to strange activity on your account; look at the machine and see if it makes sense. Ask questions. “If something (seems) weird, it probably is,” he said.
Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Assistant Features Editor