Credit card thieves can ruin your credit

Published On: Oct 30 2012 09:47:00 PM EDT
Updated On: Oct 31 2012 06:20:00 AM EDT

Thieves are using skimmer devices to steal credit card information, open bank accounts and then go on buying sprees.  That's exactly what happened to Olivia Flowers.

“It was very disturbing, because you feel invaded,” she said.

“The devices now are really small, they can be held in your hand.. and it can be done quite easily,” explained U.S. Postal Inspector Paul Krenn.

Flowers went shopping for a new car and got her first hint that someone skimmed her credit card.  Thieves destroyed her credit.

“He told me that my credit score was really low. And he told me… he actually gave me the printout,” she said.

Postal inspectors are warning that credit and debit card skimming is on the rise, especially in fast food restaurants and gas stations.  And it's profitable.  In a bust in Puerto Rico, postal inspectors seized weapons and big ticket items.

“There were $90,000 worth of postal money orders which were purchased using the fraudulent debit cards,” said Krenn.

Credit card companies know that skimmers are targeting their customers, but it's not always easy to reclaim your good name.

“The credit agency is asking you to prove that you didn't actually do it,” said Flowers.

To protect yourself from credit card skimmers, always check your receipt after each purchase you make.  Also, be sure to check your credit card statement at the end of each billing cycle, although others would say since it's so easy to check online, you should look at your account daily.  If you notice any unusual charges, notify your credit card company immediately.

To help protect yourself from getting skimmed, experts say you should inspect the card reader before you swipe.  If it doesn't look like it matches the machines color or style, it might be a skimmer.  Also, trust your instincts at the ATM.  If you're in doubt, don't swipe. Go somewhere else. 

Channel 4's crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson tells us every time: Don't use your PIN number at the gas pump.  When you swipe your debit card, hit credit.

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