Protecting Your Plastic: How to keep your credit card safe

Protecting Your Plastic: How to keep your credit card safe

(WTOL) - Many of us rely on cards instead of cash these days. But it's easier for crooks to steal your information in places you may not expect.

Jeremy Wiswell with Toledo Point of Sale, a company that specializes in point-of-sale systems that businesses use for payment transactions, says one thing people need to watch out for is skimming.

A skimmer is a magnetic strip reader that thieves swipe your card through to steal the card number. Once they steal it, they won't just use it—they will likely sell it or duplicate it.
"It's been maybe four or five years, we've seen about six cases," said Wiswell.
Toledo police say the department gets calls every day regarding credit card fraud. In one particular case, detectives were actually dealing with organized crime.

Lieutenant Joe Heffernan says one group in the area used skimmers to steal information.

"This one group that was doing it. They were actually paying people who worked in service industries like restaurants, retailers, to collect information on these mini-card readers," said Heffernan.

He says the stolen credit card data was then transferred onto blank gift cards that were used to buy things like big screen TV's in big box stores.

"We ended up charging them as a group, and that can be a very significant penalty," said Heffernan.
Luckily, businesses are making a transition to hopefully help curb the problem.

You've probably seen or heard of new credit cards that have chips in them. They are read by a payment device instead of being swiped.

"It's a microchip that stores the same thing that's on the stripe, but it also creates a token," said Wiswell. "When it's put into that machine, it actually sends out a token to the processor and the processor sends back a response and says 'oh, that card is actually present in that machine at that second.'"

Wiswell says the new technology adds a layer of security, and merchants in the United States should make the full transition in about two years.

Industry-wide, Wiswell says it will cost about $8 billion. His company is already busy installing the new systems in businesses across Toledo.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction; we're excited to see it come in," said Wiswell.
But Heffernan says consumers still need to keep a close eye on their bank statements, keep a low credit card limit if possible and maybe even change the way he or she pays for things.

"Just keep your two eyes on your card," said Heffernan. "That's not always possible, especially if you're eating out at a restaurant, things like that. That might mean, if you're really worried about it, just carry more cash."

The Weights and Measures Division for each county auditor's office in Ohio inspects gas pumps on a regular basis.

If you suspect any fraudulent activity with a pump or with anything that is weighed or measured for sale, like the meat at your grocery store deli, you can call the auditor's office to have it checked out. In Lucas County, call 419-213-4406. In Wood County, call 419-354-9173.

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