Risky Business - The riskiest places to swipe your debit or credit card

It is a convenience many of us take for granted, a quick swipe of our credit or debit card to make a purchase.  

It was like that for Kalla Debrosse, until a scammer skimmed her card.  The next time she checked her bank account online she discovered transactions she hadn't made.

"There was $400 at Walmart, $100 at Walmart, $100 at QuikTrip," said Debrosse.

In total, $1,200 had been taken directly from her bank account.

"I'm a single mother so just getting paid and having $1,200 taken out of your account on payday it was just a nightmare," said Debrosse.

The scariest part for Debrosse was that her card was in her wallet the whole time.

She paid for takeout at a fast food restaurant with her debit card. A former employee of the restaurant is accused of using a device called a skimmer to steal her account information.

What's a skimmer?

"It reads the mag stripe on your card and then it writes it onto another card so you've got a card in hand," said Elaine Dodd, of the Oklahoma Bankers Association Fraud Division.

Certain locations are more popular for scammers looking to place skimmers.

"If it's outside they're more likely to be able to put a skimmer on that," said Dodd.

That makes swiping your card at an outdoor ATM or pay-at-the-pump gas station among the riskiest places to pay with plastic.

Restaurants are also on the list because a server has access to your card and could be using a skimmer, as suspected in Debrosse's situation.
    
Shopping online is considered high risk, especially if you're not familiar with the site.

Businesses that keep your account information on hand to make future purchases easier may also put you at risk. If the business is hacked, your information is compromised.

"It's just unfortunate that it came to this to be informed, I've never heard of this type of scam before," said Debrosse.
    
Knowing the risk, your best defense is keeping a close eye on your finances.

"Some people don't look at statements but once a month," said Dodd. "And I can't understand that, having seen what I've seen."
    
Dodd suggests that you should check your bank and credit card accounts several times a week and report incorrect charges immediately.

"You'll always be made whole as long as you've notified them within, generally, a 60-day window," said Dodd.
    
After a couple of weeks Debrosse's bank did put $1,200 back in her account. But she's still dealing with being victimized. 

"It was, hurtful to think here I'm a single mother raising two children and someone, they don't know who the victims are, these scammers," said Debrosse.

Since Debrosse filed a police report, four people have been arrested, accused of stealing hundreds of debit and credit card numbers, then using those numbers to re-code other cards.

Credit cards give you more protection because even if they're skimmed at least cash isn't being taken directly  from your bank.

Dodd recommends the website Krebs on Security for more information on skimmers. The website SCAMADVISOR.com rates online shopping sites for security.

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