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Lessons and stories from the front lines of fighting identity theft.


Eating out may cost you more than the bill and tip

Dec 28

Restaurant Skimming

Can you imagine receiving your banking or credit card statement and coming across unauthorized charges after eating at a restaurant?   This was the case for a victimized couple who reviewed their statement and discovered fraudulent purchases made for televisions, iPods and gift cards.  It turns out the restaurant waiter that served them had used a hand-held skimming device to steal their credit card numbers. 

With so many of us being busy or more sociable during the holiday season, this is something to be concerned about during this time of the year when we tend eat out at restaurants more often.  You may find yourself at a restaurant when you are invited to happy hour after work, to meet up with friends to exchange gifts, or too tired to make dinner after a long day of Christmas shopping.

This is how your credit card information can be stolen with restaurant skimming:

1. A customer uses a credit card to pay. The wait staff walks the credit card to the transaction station.

2. The employee secretly swipes the credit card through a small handheld device to copy account data. Many of these devices are so small they fit in the palm of a hand and go unnoticed. 

3. The details of the victim’s credit card are then encoded on a counterfeit card and later used to sell or for the identity thief’s own benefit.

What can you do to avoid becoming a skimming victim and later noticing unauthorized charges like the couple did?  Pay cash!  I know it could be a hassle at times but paying cash is the easiest way to avoid identity theft.  Also, if you do pay with your card, check your credit card and bank statements regularly and thoroughly. Skimming tactics often go undetected because the thieves make numerous but small payments on a credit card in the hopes of avoiding detection.