by Terry Rogers
Over the past week, social media has been filled with posts of area residents who were victimized by a card reader scam. Many of those posting said that hundreds had been removed from their account through unauthorized transactions. Sergeant Adam Gillespie of the Harrington Police Department confirmed on Wednesday, February 21, that his department was investigating a significant number of thefts related to the scam.
“We are still investigating the incident, so we cannot release a lot of information,” Sgt. Gillespie said. “Although we cannot tell you where the fraud took place, we can tell you that it was a card skimmer. These things are virtually undetectable and slip over a regular skimmer. Your transaction goes through with no problem, but the skimmer allows a criminal to access your banking information and create fake credit cards.” Sgt. Gillespie said that the skimmers can be placed in a matter of seconds, even with people standing in line with the perpetrator.
Sgt. Gillespie said that the skimmer could have been in place over several weeks. The skimmers work at businesses where you must slide your card rather than insert it to access the microchip that is found on new cards. Although many credit protection experts say that shaking the card reader may sometimes loosen it so it can be detected, Sgt. Gillespie said that some of them attach so securely, they cannot be seen.
Amy Marie Banks posted on social media that her account had been cleaned out at the ATM located at Rite Aid in Harrington while Charles Jones said that his wife had $800 removed from her account with three withdrawals.
“It just happened to me yesterday,” Jerry Showard said. “Someone stole $200 from my account at an ATM in Selbyville with a fake debit card. Contacted my bank and they are investigating it now and had to get a new debit card. They informed me to only use bank ATMs or use cash.”
Amy Resh of Del-One, who had customers affected, said the first thing to do if you find out your account has been accessed is to contact your bank, credit union or card company immediately to close the card and start the dispute process. All card issuers have 24 hour lines to report lost or stolen cards, so the issue can be reported immediately. If the card is a Del-One debit card, a customer can visit any branch to be issued a new card immediately. Sgt. Gillespie said that after the card has been closed, contact local law enforcement to file a police report. Many banks will require you to provide them with the police report.
“We offer Fraud Defender Services where a fraud specialist works on your behalf to assist with recovery,” Ms. Resh said. “We also work with you to prevent additional fraud and the devastating effects this can have.”
“There are some simple steps that cardholders can do to protect themselves,” Deb Jewell, Director of Marketing at Dover Federal Credit Union, said. “Set up alerts on your account to let you know when a purchase is made or when your balance reaches a certain point. Our Card Valet service lets you control your credit or debit card through your mobile device. You can turn the card off when you are not using it and on when you are ready to make a purchase. You can also set spending limits and control the type of purchases you can make with your card.”
The fraud occurs most often when a company does not use chip technology. Magnetic-stripe cards are magnetized, so that when they are swiped, the processor reads the fields and matches them to the bank information. This makes it easy for criminals to access the information and clone it onto a new card. Data on chip cards is constantly changing so it is much harder to extract. In order to clone the card, the thief would have to get into the physical chip circuit to get the information. However, because all debit and credit cards still have the magnetic strip, it is possible for a reader to access your information with a scam reader even if the machine you are using is chip-compliant, although it will be much more difficult for the criminal to reproduce your card and use it fraudulently.
All businesses were supposed to be chip-compliant by October 2015, although gas pumps have until October 2018 to comply. Businesses who were not compliant by that date can now be held responsible for any fraudulent charges. This means that your bank can seek compensation from a business for the money they refund you due to fraudulent transactions.
“We had hoped by now every business would be chip-compliant,” Sgt. Gillespie said. “Using your card with the chip is far more safe than sliding it, but what are you going to do if the company you are shopping in has not upgraded to chip technology? You don’t have much choice but to slide your card. If you do, check your account often for a few days or place protections on your account so your bank notifies you. Those are the best tips we can give to help keep you safe.”
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