Tifton Gazette

Local News

June 19, 2013

Identity Theft: Do all you can to protect your credit, debit cards

TIFTON — It's summertime and there may be only two words on your mind – road trip. As we hit the roads this summer for vacations we all make stops at the gas station and the ATM.

Unfortunately, so do identity thieves. They set up machines called skimmers on gas pumps and ATMs that are designed to fool you and benefit them. The devices read your debit or credit card and record the number, which the thief can collect by retrieving the skimmer or even remotely using a smartphone and a wireless Internet connection. The information will then be used to create a duplicate card bearing the number, but a different name.

The worst part is that if it's a debit card, the thief can empty your bank account before you are even aware there's a problem.

It recently happened to Dan Sutton, publisher of The Gazette. A couple of days after stopping at a local gas station for a fill-up, he checked his bank balance to find several hundred dollars missing. He had checked the day before and nothing was amiss.

"I called my bank first, and when I told (the bank representative) what had happened, she said. 'Oh no, not you too.' There had been a rash of this type of activity," he said. All of the fraudulent transactions took place in Philadelphia, Pa.

Sutton also called Tift County Sheriff Gene Scarbrough, and advised him about the theft and where he had purchased gas earlier that week. Sutton said he had never stopped for gas at that particular station before, and had not used his debit card anywhere else.

"The sheriff told me that Tifton is on a major interstate, and this type of thing is easily done," Sutton said. He added the bank returned his money four days later.

The bank representative also told him that when the customer loses money, the bank very often does as well.

"She said they will take care of their customers, but they lose out, too. She immediately cancelled my card when I called and issued me a new one. I was apprehensive about getting a new card, but I don't like writing checks. I'll have to be more vigilant about where and how I use my card," he said.

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