How to avoid being targeted by a credit card skimmer
MACON, Ga. -- The convenience of using a debit or credit card could be putting your money at risk.
Law enforcement officials say that while chips in credit cards offer security, your information is still vulnerable to being stolen through the less secure magnetic strip.
Investigator Michael Parrott, who works on fraud cases for the Bibb County Sheriff's Office, said that credit cards are a popular target for thieves and the preferred method for many criminals is using skimmer devices to steal your information.
"The actual skimmer itself could be smaller than a cell phone," he said.
He said that once your card has been run through a skimmer, a thief can make a clone of your card and make purchases. He said that even credit cards with a security chip are at risk because that information is still stored on the magnetic strip.
"Cards in the United States have a chip as well as a magnetic strip on it and that's so it can be compatible with older equipment," he said.
Parrott said that most of the older card reading equipment can be found at places like gas pumps, which makes them a target for card cloners.
He recommends taking some extra time when filling up to make sure your card is safe.
"Don't pay at the pump," he said. "I know it's convenient, but go inside and pay at the register. Most criminals are not going to go inside, risk being seen by cameras, risk being recognized by someone or get caught trying to install this."
But if you are hit by a skimmer and notice fraudulent purchases on your account, Parrott said reporting it to law enforcement can help stop a thief before they strike again.
"Take the time, help our your neighbors, and do the right things," he said. "Report it so we can work on it."
If you become a victim, in addition to calling your local law enforcement, call your credit card company and follow up on any actions you take to clear your account of the false charges.