What is credit card skimming or cloning?

What exactly is credit card skimming? What is credit card cloning? How can you protect yourself from credit card skimming and cloning? What should you do if you suspect your credit card has been cloned or skimmed? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more.

Credit card technology has come a long way since the days of the “knuckle buster” credit card imprinter, a device that relied on carbon copies and grunt work to record the impression of a customer’s credit card number on a sales receipt. Now, that number can fly into cyberspace with the quick slice of the card through a reader. A reader can send it to the intended credit card company just as easily as it can filter it to a third party with more devious plans in mind.

One method of fraud at the point of sale is called credit card cloning, otherwise known as skimming. Law enforcement and industry insiders say that approximately $1 billion is lost globally each year through the skimming of credit and ATM cards.

Credit Card Skimming / Cloning Definition

Employees involved in the scam use a pocket sized device with a scanning slot. This device resembles a pager or even a legitimate credit card device, and the swiping can be done discreetly behind the counter or out of sight of the customer or other employees. Once all the information in the customer’s card has been saved into the device with the intent to clone the information, it can be used to create a new card or to overwrite a stolen one.

How can I protect myself from credit card skimming / cloning?

Being vigilant is the number one way to protect your credit card and your identity. Pay close attention if an employee takes the card beyond your line of sight to complete a transaction. If you can, follow them. If you can’t, consider using cash. Do not swipe a card through more than one machine. Be aware that if you swipe your card through a credit card slot, there should be no need for the employee to swipe it through a different one. And the number one line of defense available to you is a careful evaluation of your credit card statement for unauthorized transactions.

What can I do if I become the victim of credit card skimming / cloning?

In the event that you discover your card has been skimmed, there are several steps you can take.
First, alert your credit card issuer to the theft of your credit card information. Make a telephone call first and then send a written report to the credit card company. A prompt report guarantees that, per federal law, your liability for the fraudulent activity will not exceed $50. If you’ve chosen your credit card carefully from among those with 100% fraud protection, the issuer will not hold you liable for any charges at all if you make your report upon discovery. Make sure a fraud alert is placed on your card.

Secondly, file a complaint with the local police and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). While law enforcement in a given jurisdiction within the United States will not necessarily investigate credit card theft, and the FTC’s involvement is not likely to come into play unless the loss is in excess of $2,000, it is important to protect yourself in every way possible. The Secret Service, which is responsible for illegal activity in the form of major fraud, does not regularly concern itself with theft under $150,000 per crime. If you cover all the bases, though, your report may contribute to the ability of these agencies to identify large skimming syndicates.

A third course of action you should consider taking involves the request for a security freeze on credit authorizations via the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). By contacting each bureau to freeze your credit report, you will help ensure that your report will not be released to anybody without your consent (in the form of a PIN) for the duration of the freeze. This prevents a thief from opening a card or getting credit in your name.

You are also encouraged to take advantage of the free credit report(s) to which you are entitled each year as part of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). In compliance with this act, the three major credit bureaus established a single point of contact that can be accessed through their website, phone, or the mail.

Website: AnnualCreditReport.com

Toll-free phone number: 1-877-322-8228

Mailing address: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

You do not need to contact each bureau separately; the centralized contact information will give you access to all three reports. You are entitled to a report from each bureau every twelve months.

The methods detailed above will go a long way toward safeguarding your credit and your identity and you may also want to look into getting a free credit report along with ongoing fraud monitoring (visit our free credit report page to compare offers). Don’t forget that a credit card with 100% fraud protection can act as a suit of armor for your credit. Compare credit cards online now!

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Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or any other credit card company or issuer. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any credit card company or issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any credit card company or issuer. Credit Card Chaser may be compensated through various affiliate programs with advertisers. As always, Credit Card Chaser is an independent website commmitted to helping people research credit card offers and find the best credit card!