Integrated Family Community Services 3370 South Irving Street, Englewood, CO 80110-1816 Ph: 303-789-0501

What You Need to Know About Credit Card Clonning

Everyone tends to think of all the great things that get accomplished with new technology. Smartphones allow us to have small computers in the palm of our hand. Medical technologies have cured certain diseases. And automotive technologies have given us the power to create cars that run on electricity.

Beware of anything that looks out of ordinary at your ATM machine like this.

But there are downsides to advanced technologies, and one of these downsides is the power that it gives hackers. Hackers have been preying on unsuspecting individuals for a long time, but thanks to the recent onslaught of credit card cloning, hackers are now stealing identities easier than ever before.

What is credit card cloning?

Credit card cloning is an identity theft tactic that allows hackers to create a fake credit card by stealing the information off an individual’s actual card. For example, a person’s credit card information is placed onto another card-like object and used just like a credit card.

How does credit card cloning occur?

A hacker places a device known as a skimmer on a popular card reading location, such as on an ATM or on the credit card reader at a retail store or gas station. The magnetic strip of a person’s credit card is then read by the skimmer as it’s swiped, and the information held on that magnetic strip is then sent to the hacker’s computer. Although the text is a jumbled mess of letters, numbers and symbols, it’s the right information needed to create a clone of the real card.

This information can then be transferred to another card with a magnetic strip, such as a hotel key, gift card or old credit or debit card. When this card is now swiped, it will act like the credit card of the victim.

What makes cloning so unique?

When most hackers receive your credit card number, they only receive the number. This means that they can really only make purchases and use your credit card online. Shopping online requires the hackers to have items shipped to them, making it much easier for them to get caught. Plus, a recent slew of online purchases will serve as a red flag to your financial institution, giving the hacker less time to enjoy their shopping spree.

On the other hand, cloning allows hackers to create a physical replica of your card, allowing them to go to restaurants or retail stores and use the card to make purchases. This gives them the ability to receive goods or services in real time and reduces their chances of ever being caught.

Is credit card cloning really a problem?

Yes. In fact, cloning has been the most popular form of credit card fraud over the past few years. It has grown 87% since 2010 and recently resulted in $6 billion in losses nationwide.

Why is credit card cloning so popular?

Credit card cloning is a popular identity theft tactic because it’s easy. Skimmers are easy to access and easy to use. Most are battery powered, allowing them to be used anywhere, and some are small enough to keep in your pocket. A gas station clerk can easily swipe your card through a pocket skimmer without you even realizing what happened.

How do I protect myself?

There are three major ways to protect yourself from credit card cloning. First, keep a close eye on where you’re using your debit or credit cards. Check the outsides of ATMs or gas station card readers before you place your card into the slot. If something looks strange, go to a new ATM, pump, etc. When you give your card to a cashier, make sure to keep an eye on your card at all times. Looking away for a second is enough time for them to swipe your card through a skimmer without you noticing.

Second, monitor your credit and debit card activity on a regular basis. Sign up for online access to your accounts and check them regularly for fraudulent purchases. Keeping a close eye on these items can help you determine if something is out of the ordinary.

Third, use cash. It seems silly, but it’s really the only way to keep you protected from credit card cloning.

Credit card cloning is a serious identity theft epidemic, and the more you know about it,  the more you’ll be able to keep yourself safe.

Stella L. Brown specializes in out of band methods. Stella writes with the help of Authentify.

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