By BECKY KISER
In mid-November, Hays police took three reports of skimmers found on local ATMs and gas pumps.
“I’ve learned more about skimmers recently,” said Lt. Brandon Wright of the Hays Police Department. “I wasn’t aware that skimmers can be planted inside some of these machines that you never see from the outside. You would never know that it’s there until the charge shows up on your account.”
External skimmers are devices put over the top of the credit card slot on an ATM, gas pump, or something similar.
“The external skimmer reads the card strip as it passes through to the original equipment. They look a little suspicious,” Wright advised. “If something about the machine looks funny to you, just beware, especially if you touch it and it moves, if it doesn’t appear to be part of the original equipment.”
Newer technology has led to skimmers “that now can be placed inside the equipment in some cases. You can’t see them from the outside.
“Because of that, you need to keep an eye on your financial card accounts,” recommended Wright. “Look out for suspicious transactions, transactions that you didn’t make, and report them to your bank immediately. You should also report them to your police department. You should regularly check your credit report as well, to make sure you haven’t become a victim of identity theft.”
ATMs, operated by banks, usually have higher security, including cameras, because they contain a lot of cash. Cameras at gas pumps are becoming more common.
“If you believe somebody has stolen your credit or debit information and made an unlawful charge on your account, call the police department. Sometimes those are mistakes and not criminal activity, but a lot of times they are criminal.” Wright acknowledges such cases are difficult to solve. “Usually it takes working with both your bank and the police department to identify the criminal and try to get some justice.”
There are a lot of ways people can get your financial information.
“It can be purchased online by criminals. Maybe you’ve handed your card over to purchase something. A person can obtain the information that way. Always be suspicious if somebody walks away from you with your card. Be observant and watch what they’re doing.”
During the first six months of 2017, the number of compromised ATMs and point-of-sale devices jumped 21 percent in the United States, compared to the first six months of 2016, according to data from FICO Card Alert Service. The number of compromised cards soared 39 percent during the same time.
“You can never completely protect yourself from something like that. You’ve got to regularly check your accounts,” Wright emphasized.