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By John Igbinosun

John IgbinosunAt the first transaction notification, Chibuzor flipped his phone aside, thinking that maybe there was a transaction he had made in the past and was not debited for, due to network reasons. He was about to decide there was no such transaction when another alert came in – another debit.

And they kept coming!

He was getting intermittent notification alerts for transactions he never initiated or even knew about.

Granted, he had just returned from the USA after a nice and sweet summer vacation. While there, he had made sure to enter as many stores for the freebies/discounts that he saw in every corner, as possible. Well can we blame him? The current economic realities must be considered for every purchase.

Chibuzo was however oblivious to the existence of card cloning and identity theft!

There really is no harm in using your card for transactions outside the country, however it is key to be reminded that card fraud through cloning is still a major threat to customers who are active card users during the holiday period.

What is card fraud? It’s really quite simple, it refers to theft and fraud committed through a payment card, such as a credit card or debit card. One of the major ways that this occurs is through skimming or cloning. This is the process where a fraudster obtains your credit/debit card details, copies them onto a bogus card and begins using the card. More often than not, the magnetic strip (that dark bar at the back of the card) is the point of attack.

The first step is to recruit an individual willing to participate in the scheme. Bartenders, wait staff, or shop assistants are often prime targets because of the sheer volume of payment cards they handle.

credit cards

Swiping the card through the device copies the information held on the magnetic strip into memory. That information can subsequently be copied to a counterfeit card, complete with security holograms.

Recruits are given a pocket-size device with a scanning slot, something that resembles a pager and can be worn on a belt. They are instructed to swipe customers’ cards through the device. Because the process takes only a few seconds, it can be done easily and inconspicuously without the customer or another employee noticing.

Allow me to refer you to Will Smith’s movie, Focus. This will not only entertain you in the typical Will Smith style, but also give a very clear and concise exposé on the subject matter.

How then can you protect yourself?

Padlock

For starters, if you need to use your card at POS terminals a lot on your next trip outside the country, kindly ensure you contact your bank for more advice. Most banks now have restrictions on terminals that may have been flagged as being highly prone to fraud occurrences. Also, some countries have been restricted due to above mentioned reason.

Secondly and most importantly, avoid all terminals/merchants that do not have an option to allow you use your PIN for the transaction. Your PIN, which is a second level form of authentication, will guarantee that your card cannot be used without your consent, except you got a little too tipsy and let out too much information to some total stranger! #Oops!

Thirdly, never lose sight of your card. Let the terminal be brought to you and do not allow your card to be taken away to initiate the payment.

If you have been a victim of this in the past, do not hesitate to contact your bank immediately. There is an allowance for an investigation, usually called a charge back process, where by the payment system in conjunction with the issuing bank will initiate an investigation to try to get your money back. Yay!

All hope is not lost, but due caution must be in full gear whenever it comes to card use anywhere in the world.

So get those cards out with a little more confidence and let’s hit the stores for some winter shopping, or should I say harmattan shopping?

IG: @iamjohnnienglish

Email: johnigbinosun@gmail.com

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