Iowa is being targeted by organized crime units from Miami and Houston that steal people’s credit card numbers by installing skimming devices at ATMs and fuel pumps, according to an identity theft expert.
Mike Burke, a security and investigations expert with SHAZAM, said Iowa is being targeted because “we are unarmed at this point. They have some advances on us.”
Burke spoke about how to tell if a skimming device has been installed on a card reader, and the importance of keeping personal information private during a seminar on identity theft hosted by Peoples Bank.
Peoples Bank President Kevin Halterman said it’s still the bank’s responsibility to keep deposits safe and handle loans in a professional, courteous manner, but a lot of things have changed in the banking industry during the last 20 years.
“Identity theft has changed our way of life,” Halterman said.
“Has anyone had someone from Mexico call claiming your grandson, granddaughter or relative is being held hostage and they need money?” he asked. “We face that nearly every day now.”
While it might be the bank’s responsibility to keep deposits safe, it’s up to each individual person to keep his or her identity safe, Halterman said.
Once your identity is stolen, he said, it takes several hundred hours and several thousand dollars to rectify the situation.
Halterman encouraged anyone who is the victim of identity theft to contact the bank before he introduced a whole line of identity theft experts to a crowd of more than 100 at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church on May 1.
One way to keep your identity safe, Burke said, is to cover the keypad every time you type in your debit card number. When thieves install skimming devices, which automatically upload your card information including your name, card number and expiration date to their computer, they usually install cameras so they can see the number you typed in.
To tell if a skimming device is attached to a machine, he said to look at the slot where you insert your card. If there’s a gooey, gluey or sticky residue around the card slot, there either is or has been a skimmer device attached to that machine. Burke said if you see something like that, don’t slide your card.
Tim Henry, the vice president of United Bankers Bank in Bloomington, Minn., reminded the audience that credit card theft isn’t the only type of identity theft. Thieves are also after your drive’rs license number and Social Security number so they can do anything from apply for government assisted housing to commit W2 fraud.
Henry also warned the audience of medical fraud, because medical identity theft is easy to commit.
“If you think about it, medical insurance and medical costs are really expensive. They’re one of the most expensive things we pay for,” Henry said. “Thieves know that. They know that they can go get their appendix taken out or their knee surgery or whatever it may be and they don’t need a lot of information to do that.”
He said most hospitals don’t really check IDs. They just ask your address and date of birth and you’re checked in. Paying for the fraudster’s medical bills is one thing, Henry said, but the situation can become deadly if someone else uses your name and gives a doctor a blood type that doesn’t match yours.
As for protecting your financials, Henry said it’s important to know your rights. He said no one can be held accountable for paying fraudulent charges, as long as they’re reported as soon as possible.
He also said it’s important for everyone to know the difference between credit monitoring services, which monitor credit for strange activity, and resolution services, which help you resolve any problems once they’ve occurred.
Henry encouraged audience members to ask whether their resolution service has a limited power of attorney, which means they have someone who will take care of the situation for you once you’ve been hacked. If the company says they don’t, then you will be responsible for making the phone calls to your credit card companies if your information is ever stolen.
Harris also encouraged anyone who is worried they may be the victim of any kind of identity theft to check out the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website.
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