(PRWEB) May 23, 2007 — High-tech criminals now have a new way to take advantage of Americans' dependence on credit and debit cards — stealing consumers' identities and wrecking credit standings in the process.
PCWorld writer Tom Spring, in an article posted to the pcworld.com Website May 17, 2007, said scammers now are bugging keypads consumers use every day at retail stores to pay for purchases with credit and debit cards.
Here's how it police believe it works:
• Criminals place "skimmers" in the keypads that record card and personal identification (PIN) numbers
• Working in pairs or groups, they bring the doctored devices into stores, then create a distraction
• As clerks attend to an "emergency" elsewhere, the keypads are swapped out in a matter of seconds
• The criminals come back later to collect the bugged keypads and harvest the data
• Using stolen identities, the crooks then rack up big debts on cards, usually far from where the data was stolen.
Consumer debt specialists say this new threat makes it imperative that consumers check bank statements and credit scores regularly to spot the first signs of fraud.
"Just when you think the bad guys can't stoop any lower, you find out they can," Zack Anderson, president of American Debt Control, said. "This provides consumers with one more very important reason to take an active role in maintaining good credit ratings."
Anderson advises consumers to check bank and credit card statements frequently using online services offered by the companies that issued their cards. "If a person waits for a monthly statement, that could be too late; the account could be drained," Anderson said. "They might not find out about it until the next time they try to use their card, or when the bank statement arrives."
Another vital step for consumers is to check credit ratings regularly. Credit reports include information regarding address, a person's history of paying bills and if they have been arrested, sued or filed for bankruptcy. Credit reporting companies sell this information to businesses to help them decide how much credit to extend and what rates to charge. Employers use them to screen job applicants.
The federal government requires each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies —, Experian, and TransUnion – to provide individuals a free copy of their personal credit reports once each 12 months. This is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission through the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Anderson advises using all three once per year, staggering the report requests evenly across the calendar. This strategy helps ensure that information is accurate and consistent among the three reporting companies. It also provides more chances for people to see if someone may have stolen their identity and used it fraudulently to apply for credit.
Consumers can get instant results by simply typing in name, address, Social Security number and date of birth at the secure, federally mandated Website www.annualcreditreport.com. The service is free and instantaneous. For a small additional fee paid to the reporting company, consumers also can learn their precise credit score – useful information when preparing to negotiate financing for a major purchase. Erroneous entries and fraudulent activity drive down a person's credit rating; but they can be contested, and good credit eventually restored.
About American Debt Control
American Debt Control, LLC, is a full-service debt settlement company with more than 10 years of experience helping financially distressed people become debt-free and regain control of their lives. Our knowledge and solid relationships with banking and collection institutions nationwide help our clients reach favorable settlements, become debt-free and stay that way, without the lasting stigma of bankruptcy. For more information, call American Debt Control toll-free at http://www.americandebtcontrol.com., or visit our Website,