by MOSES LEOS III
In this day and age of Internet shopping and online transactions, using plastic to purchase items has become the norm. Consumers have become nearly unconscious to the countless times they use credit and debit cards on a daily basis.
However, with the increase in credit card use, a rise in credit card fraud has equally followed. In the City of Buda, cases are beginning to mount as to the improper use of credit card information.
“It is becoming a huge problem,” said Buda Police Detective Erica Simmons, who has followed credit card fraud cases in the past few months. According to the Buda Police Department, many of the cases stem from the larger chain stores, such as Cabela’s, H.E.B and Wal-Mart, where criminals are racking up large charges on stolen credit card information.
According to Simmons, criminals are going through many mediums of which to steal citizen’s identities, or produce fraudulent credit cards.
One common practice would be for criminals to go through mailboxes, taking letters containing deactivated credit cards, and activating them. Said Simmons, “It is not very hard to do this, as most credit card companies only ask for the name on the card and card number to activate them. People will not realize this has happened until the credit card companies start sending late notices for payments not made, or have sent charges to collection agencies.”
Another practice that has increased as of late is “skimming.” Skimming is where criminals can obtain a person’s credit card information via card swipe, where the information is then transferred directly to the criminal’s computer, or a deactivated credit card. They do this by purchasing card readers online and attaching them over existing card readers, where consumers are not likely to realize any change.
While “skimming” has not been an issue in the City of Buda, Simmons made known that the trend is growing, especially in larger cities.
“We have noticed that there has been a rise in ‘skimming’ cases at ATM’s, pay-at-the-pump gas stations and RedBox kiosks across the country,” said Simmons, who went on to mention that skimmers have been known to place small cameras and special keypads at gas stations and ATM’s to steal PIN numbers.
Additionally, purchasing items on unsecure websites also contributes to identity and credit card theft. Simmons advises consumers to ensure that websites they visit are secured, protected sites, and to not jump onto other links.
For Buda Police, they are diligently working on apprehending criminals that participate in these activities, but they realize that these issues fall within multiple jurisdictions, across vast portions of the country. Their best advice to the public is to ensure that they keep themselves safe from these cybercrimes.
“We are trying our best to educate the public, but ultimately, people must remain vigilant. If they see a card reader or keypad that is loose or looks strange, do not use that terminal,” said Simmons.
Simmons also placed importance on businesses themselves to be weary of credit card and identity thieves. Such vigilance has been enacted by a few of the local businesses around Buda. One such establishment would be the Buda Grocery and Grill, which has had to deal with this problem.
“We have had only one instance of someone using a stolen card to purchase food. Since then, we have always checked ID’s with credit card purchases,” said manager Anthony Uresti.
For some businesses, understanding customer behavior provides a deterrent. Sandra Vasquez, manager of Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant, remains vigilant on that front, stating, “If we see something that is not right, we can definitely tell.”
Ultimately, Detective Simmons would implore people to check their bank statements, and be cognizant of what is going on, “People should regularly monitor their bank statements. They should not be naïve when small, unknown charges are placed on their account. That is often a sign that a hacker is trying out the information, so as to place larger charges in the future.”
- Search is on for Buda bank robber 11/16/2011
- Police release sketch of Buda bank robber 11/22/2011
- Cabela’s credit card thieves tracked down, arrested 08/20/2010