news-5A very important part of your credit education is staying on top of credit facts in the news. This week we will take a look at things that are happening right now that affect your total financial future.

According to The News-Sentinel, You Need to beware of credit card ‘skim' scam. My oldest daughter was a victim of this very scam.

When you use your credit card to pay for your bill at a retail shop or restaurant, like most consumers, you probably assume it is in safe hands. In fact, your card could be in the hands of a “skim artist.” Credit card skimming is a practice that has been around for more than a decade but, has increased in frequency the past two or three years.

Here is how it works: Skim artists recruit gofers, who then find temporary work within restaurants, hotels and retail establishments. The recruits are given small, illicit, electronic devices, known as skimmers, which capture all of the credit or debit card's details (name, address, telephone number, card number, credit limit and PIN) in the few seconds that it takes to swipe the card through the machine.

When the unsuspecting customers go to pay their bill, their card is first swiped through the legitimate credit card machine, but then, secretly, it is also swiped through the smaller skimmer machine. The gofer then passes the gadget on to the skim artist, who pays them cash for their part in the crime. Once the skim artist has the details, he downloads the information onto a computer and makes up a fake card. The “cloned” card is embossed with the details of the victim's credit card and passed on to others, who may sell the card or use it for their own benefit. My husband and I know. It's happened to us, when a “T. Chavez” in California signed two big purchases with his name and our credit card number on an embossed card! The call from our financial institution began with, “Have you been in California recently?” Well, no. From there we knew there was a problem.

Skim artists usually target gold or platinum cards. Because of their higher credit limit, it visually takes the bank longer to realize there is a problem. While the whole process of getting a cloned card onto the streets can take less than a day, the customer is none the wiser, since his own credit card is in his wallet. In fact, victims may not realize they have been taken until they check at the end of the month, or receive a call from their bank or credit union telling them “your account has been compromised.”

How can you protect yourself?

Keep your receipts (all of them), check your statements regularly and review them thoroughly. If you see a transaction that you did not make or authorize, report it to the card issuer immediately. This goes for an “increase” in the tip that you left! A saved receipt/thoroughly reviewed statement will catch these disparities.

Request a credit check on yourself as often as twice a year.

At HOPE we educate our clients everyday on making wise credit decisions. If you would like to know more please call us at 704-503-3669. Our staff is waiting on your call.