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Entire Town in Colorado Has Identity Stolen

In a town with a population of about 3,000 people it seems that almost all the citizens of Bennett, Colorado have had their identity stolen. The scheme was simple and it was easy to fall victim. Identity thieves apparently used skimmers to extract credit and debit card numbers from individuals. Skimmer scams can happen when the criminal installs a “skimming” device over the card slot of an ATM, debit or credit card reader. The skimmer then reads the magnetic strip as the user unknowingly passes their card through it.

In the case of Bennett, Colorado it is believed that this was done at a local King Soopers gas pump. The skimmer is gone now and authorities are on the hunt for the thief.  King Soopers has denied that any of the fraudulent activity happened at their gas pumps and authorities have also said that they knew this was a crime spree for the past few weeks. In the meantime, many of the victims who used debit cards are without those funds because its the same as using cash. The average amount stolen was around $700 and more people are coming forward every day.

There are many ways you can make sure that you don’t become a skimmer victim.

  • Make sure that you always use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit card companies are better prepared to handle fraudulent charges and it does not directly affect your ash flow. If you use a debit card, you are losing that cash immediately and have to prove your innocence to get it back.
  • Always examine the credit card machine or ATM where you are sliding your card very carefully. Usually you can tell if it looks funny or has an extra attachment . If you are at all suspicious, don’t use it. Go inside of you bank to withdraw funds until you are comfortable that the ATM is safe, or pay inside of the gas station rather than at the pump.
  • Don’t use your debit card at restaurants, as this is another prime place for theft. Instead, use your credit card and set up credit card account alerts that text or email you immediately when you make a purchase. If’ it’s a fraudulent charge, you will catch it very quickly.
  • Use Cash. This is the simplest way to protect yourself form this type of fraud.

John Sileo speaks professionally on identity theft. His clients include the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and many municipalities that have successfully avoided the types of thefts in Bennett, Colorado by educating their citizens.

Electronic Pickpocket Video – Identity Theft Expert

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There is a new wave of Hi-Tech Identity Theft that the average person has no idea is possible. Identity Thieves are able to steal your credit card information without even touching your wallet.

RFID, or radio-frequency identity technology was introduced to make paying for items faster and easier. What many probably didn’t expect is that the same technology can be used by thieves to get your payment information just as easily. All major credit cards that have this technology have a symbol (pictured to the right). It means that your card can communicate via electromagnetic waves to exchange data (your credit card number) between a terminal and an electronic tag attached to an object, for the purpose of identification. With a quick scan of the card, the same way you would scan it to pay for items,  all of your payment information is directed towards a source or identity thief’s computer in this case.

With a laptop and an antenna, it’s possible that a virtual pickpocket can steal credit card information, without ever touching their victim.  All that is needed is a credit card reader that you can purchase online and a laptop computer. With a simple scan the crook can lift your credit card number, expiration date, and in some cases your name. Since 2006 all U.S. passports also have RFID technology so identity thieves are able to scan those just as easily and pick up more personal information in order to rip you off. These passports contain specific contact information as well as date of birth.

The statistics on this type of theft are not available because the detection rate is low and it is so new. There would be no way right now to prove that this method was used over other similar methods that steal your card information. There are a few ways you can protect yourself.

First, set up account alerts and monitor your statements. That way if your credit card is compromised you can detect it immediately and take the necessary steps to contact the bank, report the fraud, and cancel the card. Second there are sleeves and wallets built to protect your cards and make them unable to scan and be lifted. Several companies make products that create an RFID shield by blocking the electromagnetic energy necessary to power and communicate with contactless smart cards, passports, and enhanced drivers licenses.

Before you finish this article, pull out all of your cards to see if they have the sonar symbol above. Even one of these puts you at risk.

John Sileo is the award-winning author of Stolen Lives and Privacy Means Profit (Wiley, August 2010), a professional Financial Speaker and America’s leading identity theft expert. His clients include the Department of Defense, FTC, FDIC and Pfizer; his recent media appearances include 60 Minutes. Contact him on 800.258.8076.