Credit card skimming… watching for new opportunities (or vulnerabilities).

I just returned from speaking at a conference in Miami.  I checked into my hotel, and as part of my debriefing from the travel, I found the in-room safe to safely store my laptop, camera and other electronic devices.

As I read the instructions it dawned on me that we used our credit and debit cards in many different contexts beyond store purchases, gas purchases, red box terminals and ATM machines.

At the airport I had to use a credit card to retrieve my boarding passes – the airlines call it “self-service” checkin.  Nothing self-service about it, we had to get in line both ways due to system issues.  I wondered what system was behind the self-service terminals that hundreds of thousands of travelers insert their credit card into every traveling day, and more importantly, what safeguards were in place to protect my card information from skimming or theft.

The safe in our room had two options – enter a private code or swipe a credit card on the reader.  The same card used to close the safe would be required to be swiped to re-open the safe.  I wondered what systems were behind the safe tracking my credit card information, and more importantly, who had access to my card information when I swiped.  I chose to enter a four digit code, as I had no way of knowing if dishonest employees could access all the cards swiped on the room’s safe.  And then I wondered how many safes were in this one hotel – hundreds.  In all the rooms in all the hotels in the US alone – thousands…

An individual attending one of my sessions in Miami asked me what I suggested for a replacement to using debit and credit cards due the high incidence of skimming.  She asked if we should switch back to cash only.  I responded that if we did that, the number of personal robberies would certainly increase.

The solution if to be prudent where you use your credit card, monitor your card’s activity, loose your debit card (and switch to a credit card), and remain vigilant.

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15 comments on “Credit card skimming… watching for new opportunities (or vulnerabilities).
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  3. Hotel Fraud says:

    I have worked as a fraud consultant within the hotel industry for over 13 years. A hotel guest has nothing to worry about when they use their credit card to open or close an in room safe. Credit cards have “tracks” within the magnetic strip. The credit card information is contained on one track that is not accessible to businesses outside of the credit card industry. The in room safe creates an algorithm from the first track of the magnetic strip. This strip does not contain credit card information or any other sensitive privacy information.

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