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Ask An Expert: Scott Belshaw, Ph.D., UNT

Ask An Expert: Scott Belshaw, Ph.D., UNT

UNT System HR brings you UNT World experts with this periodic and always timely installation called "Ask An Expert." So, let's ask...

EXPERT: Scott Belshaw, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Criminal Justice in UNT's College of Health and Public Service, is an expert on the sneaky crime of credit card skimming. Wait, what is credit card skimming? It's a prevalent crime that you need to be aware of every time you pull into a gas station or drive through the ATM. According to Dr. Belshaw, criminals place a small device inside or on a gas pump or ATM machine in order to steal credit or debit card information. If a criminal is successful in stealing your data, you can bet it'll then be used to make fraudulent charges either online or with a counterfeit credit card. Thankfully, Dr. Belshaw has you covered. We ask him when this type of crime is most likely to happen, where it's most likely to happen, how we are vulnerable and what we can do to protect ourselves from credit card-skimming criminals. Please click the button below to get all the details and -- like McGruff the Crime Dog always says -- take a bite out of crime!

 

Q: What is credit card skimming?
Dr: Belshaw: 
Credit card skimming is a type of credit card theft where crooks use a small device to steal credit card information in an otherwise legitimate credit or debit card transaction. When a credit or debit card is swiped through a skimmer, the device captures and stores all the details stored in the card's magnetic stripe. Credit card skimming is a form of credit card theft where criminals place a small device inside or on a gas pump or ATM machine in order to steal credit card information in an illegal manner. When a credit or debit card is swiped through a skimmer, the device captures and stores all the details pertaining to that specific card. The stripe on the back of the card contains the credit card number and expiration date and the credit card holder's full name. Criminals then use the stolen data to make fraudulent charges either online or with a counterfeit credit card.

Q: Is credit card skimming more prevalent during the holiday season that we're about to enter?
Dr. Belshaw: No. It is relatively steady, but through my research it increased during the first 12 months of Covid. Also, the gas stations that are more likely to have skimmers are the ones that seldom update their equipment and are likely to have broken surveillance equipment. The bad guys know which ones that the attendants just don’t take care of. During work hours criminals will go to the gas pumps acting like they are pumping gas and insert these skimmers into the pump. 

Q: How am I vulnerable to this crime?
Dr. Belshaw: When you use a magnetic strip card at a gas pump. Pumps that are equipped with the EMV chip (the small, square computer chips that appear on debit, credit and prepaid cards to help safeguard them against fraud) are safer than the magnetic strip cards. 

Q: How can I protect myself from this crime if I have no idea if the gas pump or ATM I'm using has been tampered with and contains a skimmer? 
Dr. Belshaw: So best advice is to pay cash or credit in the office or use a chip enabled credit card machine. Magnetic strips are also NOT encrypted. The chip data is encrypted and the bad guy will have a hard time getting it.

Q: What do I do if my credit card is compromised or I suspect a skimmer in the gas pump?
Dr. Belshaw: Call the local police and file a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. This can be done at https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/skimmers.