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Thieves target ways to get into your accounts
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Do you hand your credit card to a waitress when it’s time to pay? Do you surf the Internet in public places? Do you pay attention to the ATM when making a withdrawal to notice if a skimmer has been attached to the machine?
Identify theft can take place in a variety of ways, according to Paige Hanson, who helped organize a recent law enforcement training seminar at TBI headquarters in Nashville. She says consumers need to be careful when it comes to any transaction involving their credit card or bank account.
“Florida ranks No. 1 in the nation in terms of number of identity thefts,” said Hanson. “Tennessee isn’t in the top 10, but it is ranked 19th so there is a fair amount of identity theft taking place.”
 McMinnville detective Todd Rowland was one of approximately 40 Middle Tennessee officers who attended the day-long seminar to learn about the latest tricks in the identity theft industry – an industry he says is growing.
“It’s a $97 billion industry in the United States so that makes it more profitable than selling drugs,” said Rowland. “It’s one of those crimes that can be very hard to work. If it takes place online, it can be almost impossible to track where the money goes. If you can track it and it goes out of state, then it becomes a matter of extradition and whether you’re going to pay to bring someone to Warren County to face charges.”
Credit card skimmers are becoming an easy way to access someone’s credit card information. These skimmers can be used by a waiter or waitress if you hand them your credit card and they walk away to process your transaction. Store clerks can also attach them to the credit card terminal at their register and it often goes undetected.
The skimmer captures your credit card information which enables the person to make purchases using your card. The thief can also opt to sell credit card numbers in bulk for a certain price.
Skimmers can also be attached to ATMs to capture your information. This system can be elaborate and even include a nearby video camera to get your PIN as you enter it into the machine.
Thieves usually target independent ATMs for this type of venture that are not attached to a bank and aren’t monitored as regularly.
“It’s so easy to buy skimmers now,” said Hanson. “You can get one for about $500 so you can get that small investment back if you max out just one credit card.”
Rowland said all credit cards, regardless of brand, are manufactured at the same facility in China. He said anyone can buy blank credit cards and customize them with your stolen information to pass them off as a real card.
People can also have their information stolen if they’re surfing the Internet at a public restaurant, coffee shop, airport or hotel. You may be innocently surfing websites, but someone else may be surfing for your personal information, Hanson says.
“If you’re using public wi-fi, you have no idea what’s on that wireless network,” said Hanson. “Certainly don’t go on any website where you have to use your username and password.”