Protecting your personal information from strangers seems like a no-brainer, but what happens when the stranger is your waitress or gas station attendant? Reports of credit card skimming across the United States and other countries are popping up rapidly at restaurants, gas stations, and ATM’s. Are we allowing ourselves to become so distracted that we don’t notice blatant theft of our personal information or have we become too relaxed about it?
Put yourself in a public setting, such as a restaurant or busy subway. By habit, we keep our phones in our hands or on the table in front of us. These days, when our phone is not in sight or we can’t feel it in our pocket anymore, we spiral into panic-mode. We rapidly search through our bags or immediately track it down on another piece of technology. However, our credit cards are even more valuable then a phone, so why aren’t we checking our bank account and credit statements as often as we check for our phone? Easy answer – it’s because we are too distracted by our daily lives. How can we fix this widespread issue and create a habit of heightened security within our bustling days? It would be a shame to live in a world where we insist our waiters or waitresses to run our cards right in front of us. Let’s get to work, because this isn’t just computer security we’re talking about. It’s life security.
Of course the best way to stay alert is constantly checking your bank and credit card statements, but there are more ways to prevent identity theft or fraud. Numerous credit card companies have anti-theft protection and will alert you of oddly-expensive purchases or purchases outside of your home town! Checking your credit card company’s annual policies in regards to identity theft is a great way to educate yourself on how to stay alert and how to work alongside the company to secure your account. Since we no longer live in the Stone Age and instead, the “Phone Age”, we recommend setting up text alerts with your company as an easy way to track credit card payments and charges!
Unfortunately, there are sad, lonely people out there that choose to spend their time creating technology to fly under the radar in regards to credit card skimming. The interesting thing is that these credit card skimmers are a combination of basic and complex technology, some of which can be easily spotted or protected against! Let’s talk about ATM skimmers. The first thing you should do when going to an ATM is just observe your surroundings. Make sure the person behind you in line is a distance away you feel comfortable enough to put your credit card pin numbers into the machine. You don’t need any “nosey-nellies” trying to look over your shoulder! Also, don’t be afraid to try tugging at the payment terminal, card reader, or keypad to check for any card skimmers attached to the machine. Real story, a report in Brazil included a video where Brazilian police removed an entire ATM cover, just an elaborate card skimmer, off a machine. It’s time for us to foil these sad, lonely, card-skimming peoples’ plans and protect our information!
Another great piece of technology that protects our credit cards in public settings are RFID, radio frequency identification, card holders. Now I know that sounds like a complex piece of technology, but its actually just a sleeve or wallet you can slip over your credit card to block out any device signals the sad, lonely people will use to access your personal information. They’re very cheap and easy to find online or in some stores, typically where you can buy purses or wallets. Amazon sells a pack of 16 sleeves for $9, or you can opt to buy a complete wallet that protects all the contents inside, instead of individual card covers. In addition, many people have transitioned to microchipped credit cards that are constantly changing their data, creating unique, one-time transaction codes for every purchase. These new credit cards are more difficult to crack and will leave the sad, lonely people to be sad and lonely.
If there are so many issues with identity theft and credit card skimmers, then why do we choose to continue using credit cards? Well, there are many reasons! They are convenient, making money readily available, and they are a great tool for people to use to look past the cost of an item and, instead, at the benefits of such item. Of course, we say that with caution, because credit card debt is extremely common. But we aren’t credit counselors. We’re I.T. people and computer nerds, which makes us practical, if not paranoid individuals.
The society in which we live allows for us to develop trusting attitudes toward others, such as our waiters, waitresses, gas station attendants, etc. This is a beautiful thing! In order to maintain this trust and continue pushing our society into a better future, it is our job as individuals to be responsible and alert when it comes to our personal information. Seeing the best in others while also protecting yourself promises a much greater and more positive step for our society.