Crime alert: more on card skimming fraud


card skimming fraud

Card skimming fraud is a type of fraud that uses devices to read your credit card and steal your pin or password. It’s a type of theft that frequently happens at ATM machines, but it also is common at gas stations and any place that you swipe the magnetic strip of a credit or debit card. The latest scene of the crime are self-checkout stations in supermarkets.

The problem is that data on your credit card is stored in magnetic strip on the back of your card and the magnetic strip is not encrypted. Cheap devices are readily available to scan that data. Devices used to be large and unwieldy, but have become increasingly smaller and cheaper. These devices can be cleverly disguised and affixed to retail outlets that read your cards. They can also be used anyplace your card is scanned.

To foil card skimming fraud, new cards contain chips with encrypted data so those cards are safer in theory. We say “in theory” because it’s an enormous undertaking for banks, gas stations and retailers to replace the card reader stations and convert to chip-enabled card readers, so many still rely on reading magnetic strips. As long as your credit cards have a magnetic strip, they are still insecure.

This ABC News video clip is about 8 minutes long  –  a good investment for a quick education about what skimming is, how to spot it and steps to take to prevent it.

Here are skimming fraud prevention tips we’ve gleaned from the experts over the years.

  • Use well lit, well-trafficked ATMS and gas stations with security cameras; go inside banks; be particularly careful at freestanding ATMs.
  • When using an ATM or paying at the gas pump, check for anything unusual and be alert for any devices that may be affixed. Look for anything that protrudes from or seems affixed to the machine, any color differences, any unusual stickers. Look for nearby mirrors, pamphlet holders, speakers, or devices that could house a camera.
  • Always cover the keypad with your hand to shield from any cameras that may be trying to record your PIN. It’s also a good idea to touch several keys with your fingers to thwart anyone trying to grab your pin via infrared heat detector readers.
  • Don’t let anyone “help you” at an ATM or credit card reader.
  • When paying at a restaurant or any retail outlet, don’t let anyone walk away with your card, have them read the card in your presence so that they don’t harvest your information with a small pocket-skimmer.
  • Check your bank account regularly to ensure funds have not been taken.
  • If you spot anything suspicious at an ATM or a  self-service gas or grocery kiosk, alert the business or the police right away.

Two ways your garage door makes you vulnerable to burglaries


Garage Door Opener

Burglar garage door tactic #1: Thieves are often breaking into cars not to steal the car, but to steal the garage door opener. If thieves spot a garage door opener in your parked vehicle, they steal it, harvest your home address from the car registration or other identifying material in your glove compartment, and break into your garage while you are still out and about. And unless your garage is a free-standing unit, getting into the garage will offer easy access to your entire house.

The solution is simple – keep garage door opener on your key chain so you can take it with you in your purse or pocket when you exit the car.

Burglar garage door tactic #2: Most people feel pretty safe if they have their garage door closed, but in just a matter of seconds, experienced thieves can break in to your garage with a simple wire hanger by hooking the release valve. This short video shows how – it;s pretty scary — and the clip also offers a solution to deter this by using a cable tie.

You should test breaking the cable tie from the inside to be sure that the door could still be used as an emergency exit. Here are two alternate products that can help to secure your garage from Garage Shield.

Your garage is an entry point to your entire home – and as the article above notes, if burglars get in your garage and close the door, they have good cover for wreaking havoc. All too often, the door between the garage and the home is unlocked or insufficiently secure. Here are some ideas to increase your defenses: Top 10 Garage Door Security Tips to Prevent Break-Ins.

When guarding against summer burglaries, don’t forget your yard


There are more than two million home burglaries per year, according to the FBI, and the highest percentage of burglaries occurs during the summer months. It’s not hard to figure out why. It’s peak vacation season so a lot of homes are empty; plus, with warm weather, there’s an increase in the number of doors and windows left open, which make accessibility easier. According to Safeguard the World:

  • About 30 percent of all burglaries are through an open or unlocked window or door.
  • Windows are left unlocked at a much higher rate than doors.
  • An open window that is visible from the street may be the sole reason that a house is targeted.
  • An open window with only a locked window screen is particularly inviting to thieves. Access is quick, easy and silent.

See more statistics along with prevention tips.

One other seasonal vulnerability is highlighted in a recent survey conducted by one of our insurer partners. American Modern Insurance points out that in good weather, there are simply more unsecured “backyard valuables” lying around: bikes, sporting equipment, grilles, lawn furniture – all relatively easy targets for thieves. Copper coils from air conditioners and other metallic items can be sold for scrap metal.

“An American Modern survey of more than 500 adults living in the US, indicated that 31 percent do not take proactive steps to secure property and personal items located on the outside of the home. Additionally, the survey indicated that respondents were most likely to take steps to protect their electronics (42%), as well as jewelry and watches (23%) inside their homes, and less likely to do so with outdoor/recreational items (18%). The survey was conducted through Google in June 2016.”

In their press release, American Modern offers 10 tips, which we reproduce here:

1. Install strong door locks and deadbolts. Choose a lock that is proven to withstand drilling or picking.

2. Reinforce doorjambs and strike plates. Most often, structural failures occur when strike plates separate from doorframes.

3. Apply window security film. This prevents glass breakage and can deter a smash-and-grab.

4. Lock your windows. If your windows don’t already have locks, add them. Or, drill small holes into the upper and lower sashes at their overlap point and insert removable eyebolts.

5. Close and lock your shed and garage every night. Make sure your vehicles are under cover and secure before you head out of town. On a smaller scale, stolen tools and lawn equipment are also a lucrative theft item, so ensure these items are securely stored away. The garage can also serve as a common entry point for burglars.

6. When away from home, don’t advertise your absence. Put temporary holds on mail and newspaper delivery, or have a trusted neighbor collect them. Put lights on staggered timers. Also, avoid posting on social media about your travel plans, which can increase the risk of burglaries and break-ins while you are away from your property.

7. Keep valuables outside the bedroom. Thieves on the hunt for valuables will likely make the master bedroom their first stop to scout out jewelry or cash. Keep these items in a different room instead.

8. Put in motion-activated outdoor lighting. Make sure entry points are especially well-lit.

9. Organize a Neighborhood Watch. Meet your neighbors and deter theft!

10. Vehicles and items left in them. Most vehicle-related thefts take place in under 20 seconds. Never leave loose items on the seats or dash; lock them in the trunk or, better yet, take them inside with you. If you have a garage at home, use it. If you must park on the street, install a loud alarm system with a visible, blinking dash light.

Scam-apalooza! Don’t let fraud ruin your holiday


ruined-holidayThe CT commissioner of insurance warns policyholders of a recent insurance phone scam. People are getting calls that their insurance is cancelled and they need to make a credit card payment to reinstate their policy. The commissioner says: Never give out your credit card information to an unsolicited caller.

Good advice – particularly over the holiday. Scams are plentiful in the holiday season so keep your radar set on high. We’ve heard about fake shipping notifications, pyramid schemes, gift card scams, fake charities and plain old package theft. Don’t let scammers ruin your holiday – learn about the most common holiday fraud schemes.

General Alerts

Gift Card Scams

Package Theft

Delivery Scams

Charity Scams

Santa Scams

Holiday Pyramid Schemes

Holiday job Scams

General shopping & holiday safety

Car thieves have new tricks: VIN cloning


nicb-theft

Car theft used to be a major worry for car owners, but today, it’s just a passing concern. Hot-wired cars may now be a thing of the past. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that car theft has dropped by 58% since 1991, the high point when 1.661 million vehicles were stolen. The improvement is so dramatic that many police departments throughout the country have disbanded their dedicated auto theft investigative units.

In a recent article on auto theft, the Boston Globe reports:

“At its peak in 1975, Massachusetts ranked third nationwide (behind California and New York) in total annual thefts at 91,563, and the state remained in the top 10 states for auto theft until 1992, according to National Insurance Crime Bureau stats. The state ended 2013 with 9,122 thefts.”

Law enforcement and insurance-industry focus helped to turn the tide, but perhaps even more importantly, technology advances have changed the playing field. Transponder keys, immobilizing technologies, and tracking & recovery systems have all contributed to the drop. But criminals aren’t throwing in the towel — they are adapting and getting smarter. Some of the ways they get around things are to steal the transponder itself. Another way is through fraudulent financing. Crooks steal your identity and then secure financing under your ID to buy a new car.

One devious and increasingly common new car crime is called VIN cloning or VIN switching, a real concern for used car buyers. It works this way: Thieves steal a car. Then they locate a similar model and make and copy the vehicle identification number (VIN). The thieves then make and install counterfeit VIN plates for the stolen car. You buy the car complete with paperwork, but one day police knock on your door to reclaim the stolen vehicle. Unless your state offers some consumer protections, you may be out of luck – you still have loan payments but your car was confiscated.

Here are a few clips that explain how it works.

How can you protect yourself?
CarFax offers suggestions for how to protect yourself from VIN fraud, including these tips

–Check the VINs on the dash, driver’s door sticker, car frame, title documents and service records all match
–Examine the VIN plate on the dash for any sign of tampering
–Look at the CARFAX and check:
—–For a clone alert
—–If the mileage on the odometer matches reported mileage
—–For several registrations between states – this is a red flag which should be investigated further
–Follow our tips for detecting salvage title fraud
–Get the car inspected by a qualified, independent mechanic