By Mechele Mills
Skimming is the name of a scam in which thieves steal information off of credit card magnetic strips to make fraudulent purchases. Not only are the number of reported incidents increasing, attacks are becoming more sophisticated as devices are more difficult to detect.
Recently, local authorities arrested five individuals involved in a credit card skimming ring which resulted in millions of dollars being stolen from East Texas residents. While this particular group targeted gas stations, credit card skimming can occur at any kind or size of retail outlet. Better Business Bureau advises all companies who process credit card transaction to know what to look for and how to report this scam.
“It’s important for consumers to be savvy when it comes to identity theft,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB serving Central East Texas. “It is equally important, however, for business owners to protect their customers’ information as well.”
BBB provides the following considerations to help business owners prevent skimming schemes from happening at their establishments:
Inspect the equipment. Look for loose attachments, broken security seals and wiggle card readers regularly, particularly if you have gas pumps, remote locations or kiosks. Check for scratching and/or glue residue around the card slot. Make sure your software is kept up to date.
Keep an eye out for hidden cameras. Criminals often use a camera to obtain PIN numbers associated with the credit cards they skim. Watch for anything which may have a tiny hole or slot in which a tiny camera may be aimed at the keypad.
Make sure it’s not an inside job. Some credit card skimming rings plant employees in jobs which require them to handle credit card transactions. They are provided with portable skimmers and are paid for every credit card they swipe through the device. By the time the skimming is discovered, they are no longer working for the company.
Educate staff. Skimming is a crime which can often be prevented with proper training. Employees should be instructed on how to spot skimming devices installed on point of sale equipment as well as how to report suspicious activity.
Become Europay, Mastercard Visa (EMV) compliant. EMV chip transactions will decline instances of fraudulent activity. EMV creates a unique transaction code per transaction, making skimming methods ineffective.
Consider newer methods of payment. Services like Apple Pay, or Android Pay tokenize credit card information so your customers’ personal information is never compromised. If a criminal intercepts the information, they will only get a useless virtual credit card number.
If your business has been victimized by credit card skimming:
Secure your equipment to stop additional loss.
Communicate with all affected parties, including staff and customers. Inform them that you are taking necessary steps to ensure there are no additional incidents.
Mechele Mills is the President|CEO for the Better Business Bureau Serving Central East Texas. Prior to her role at BBB, she led and consulted organizations of all sizes managing operations, sales marketing, and personnel for both the public and private sector. She holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism/PR from the University of Texas at Tyler and a Master’s in Business Administration from Baylor University.