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03/06/2012

Has your credit card been skimmed? Alleged Toronto ATM gang charged.

Seven alleged members of an ATM skimming network have been arrested in Toronto, pending charges. The gang is believed to have stolen at least $800,000 after skimming the information from credit cards and trading the information with criminals all over the world.

Credit card skimming gangs create small devices that fit over the top of a card slot in an ATM machine. When someone came to use the device, it would copy the information on the magnetic stripe of the card. That information could then be used to create other cards that could be used fraudulently throughout the world. 

ATM skimming is an old trick – and I have also been caught. A couple of years ago, I used my card in a store in Vancouver, to get out some cash. Subsequently, strange charges began showing up my bill, and it became clear that someone had skimmed the information during my cash withdrawal.

Skimming devices are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Some of them even have cameras that film the unwitting victim entering their pin number on the keypad, so that they can match it with the credit card information later. 

Banks have taken a couple of measures to make this more difficult for criminals. Firstly, they have installed skimmer-proof ATM machines designed to make it extra difficult for anything to be put over the card slot. Secondly, they have introduced Chip and Pin, a technology that encodes secret information on a non-tamper chip on the card. However, not all point-of-sale systems or ATM machines in the world support chip and pin. Some of them still rely only on the magnetic card. This is true across North America, and in many other countries.

According to the Toronto Police Service Financial Crimes Unit, the credit card information was trafficked to locations in Europe, South America, the USA, South Africa, and the Caribbean, where cards were used at various ATM locations. Canadian credit cards were also used fraudulently in Bulgaria, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico.

The moral of this story: always check your credit card balance, and try to use ATM machines inside a banking premises where possible. Always cover your hand when entering your PIN. And at the first sign of any suspicious activity, contact your bank immediately.

Have you ever had your card skimmed? What happened and how did you find out?

Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets

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Danny BradburyDanny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with 20 years' experience. He writes regularly for publications including the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Financial Post, and Backbone magazine. Danny also writes and directs documentaries.

Maurice CachoMaurice Cacho

Maurice Cacho is a Toronto-based journalist mixing his love for tech with a passion for news. He's also CP24's Web Journalist and appears daily on CP24 Breakfast and weekly on the channel's tech show, Webnation, discussing tech news and trends.

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