Tag Archives: credit card

Stop Getting Hacked: 4 Steps to Obtaining and Using a Free EMV Credit Card

Image By: tales of a wandering youkai

Most Americans can successfully play the “six degrees of separation” game when it comes to knowing someone whose credit card was hacked in the last couple of years. In fact, stolen Target cards in 2013 alone accounted for $53.7 million in income for hackers. Although many folks remember the Target breach, few people remember that 20 other major data breaches occurred in 2014. The reason, is at least in part, is due to the lackluster security technology in our existing credit cards.

The traditional magnetic stripe cards require only a signature for security purposes, and any security system built around low paid retail employees checking signature verification is destined to fail. Who hasn’t sent a friend or relative off with a credit card to buy gas or to purchase groceries where no one questioned the difference in signature on the back of the card and the signature on the terminal or receipt?

Thankfully, there is a more secure form of credit card. Chip Cards, known as EMV or “smart cards”, add another layer of fraud protection through an embedded microchip that turns card member information into unique codes that is difficult to replicate. Plus, if your card is stolen, thieves cannot use EMV data to create usable counterfeit payment cards.

EMV enabled cards, have been around for about ten years in about 80 countries worldwide, but are only recently being adopted by the US, due to legislation that forces merchants to accept them by October 1, 2015. Currently, about 10-15 million chip credit cards already have been issued to U.S. consumers. Additionally, about one million out of more than 10 million POS (Point of Sale) terminals have already made the transition, and as merchants renew with their existing provider or pick a new credit card processor, they are adding the capability.

What Can You Do Now?
1. Find Out If Your Card Is Available in EMV Format: Check out this page at EMV Connection, which shows an up-to-date list of EMV issuers and the availability of EMV cards in the U.S. You can use this list to know what to ask for when you call your credit card company for a replacement card. Or, you can learn more about the card you may already have in hand. In fact, if you received a new credit card from your issuer sometime in the past year, you may already have experienced the technology without realizing it.
2. Request a Free EMV Enabled Card: Will you need to pay for these chip cards? Not if you already own a credit card. All you need to do is call your card issuer or go online to that issuer’s website and request an EMV card. Although banks have been rolling EMV cards out as renewal card replacements, you may need to ask your issuer specifically for that EMV card if you are traveling soon. Most credit card companies won’t issue a card at any time other than renewal unless you ask.
3. Start Using It Wherever Possible: Most new cards issued will contain both the stripe and the chip. So, if you’re standing at a credit card terminal and you aren’t sure what to do, just enter the card in the card slot. If the EMV terminal isn’t ready for your card yet, the machine will show an error and you’ll be prompted to swipe it. If you try to swipe a chip card in an EMV-activated terminal, the same thing will occur – an error message and a prompt to insert the card differently so the machine will read the chip.
4. Memorize Your PIN: Unmanned terminals at automated kiosks may now ask for a PIN number with EMV cards. This is when you DO need to worry. In the past, card holders didn’t need to memorize their PINs, and now they do. Don’t carry a list of PINs around with you, either, because the risk of that EMV card and your PIN list being stolen is just as high as it’s ever been.
Trading out your old magnetic stripe credit card for a chip enabled credit card provides you with a more secure, but equally convenient, way to pay for your transactions. Additionally, remember, that you should use the chip on your card whenever possible, you shouldn’t carry a PIN list around with you, and you should shred your old cards. Taking these simple measures can go a long way to minimizing the risk of credit card and identity theft.
Rich McIver regularly writes about consumer protection and advocacy as it relates to the credit card processing industry. He is the founder of MerchantNegotiators.com, and can be reached via Twitter or Facebook.

U.S. Secret Service Investigating Possible Data Breach at Sears?

Sears Holdings Corp. is launching an investigation in the wake of cyber attacks on other retail stores.  Sears, the retailer run by Edward Lampert, has not revealed any details of an actual attack or security breach.

Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said in a press statement, “There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach.”

Riefs added that there has been no information to indicate a breach so far which completely contradicts a report made by Bloomberg News.  Bloomberg News, using an un-indentified source, reported that the U.S. Secret Service was involved in investigating a secret breach at Sears.  The U.S. Secret Service is remaining quiet on whether or not it is actually investigating a breach at the retailer.

What is known is that the U.S. Secret Service is leading the investigation into last year’s cyber attack on Target and last year’s attack on Neiman Marcus.  The Target breach lead to the theft of approximately 40 million credit/debit card numbers and over 70 million pieces of personal data.  Neiman Marcus has also faced the harm of a data breach.  The luxury retailer had 1.1 million credit and debit cards hacked by malware that infiltrated terminals point of sale systems.

Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers who have experienced data breaches are attempting to gain back customer support by doing a lot of damage control. Target has offered free credit monitoring  and identity theft protection to customers for free for one year as part of its damage control efforts.

The rumor that Sears is investigating a possible security breach may still harm the retailer.  Lampert has struggled to make Sears profitable after 28 straight quarters of declining sales. A tarnished image from a potential data breach isn’t going to make shoppers rush out to buy anything from the retailer.

Original reports of the Target and Neiman Marcus breaches made clear that it could take months to confirm that breaches were made, how many victims were affected, and account for what data was stolen.

5 Credit Card Safety Tips for Travel during the Holidays

credit card scamsTraveling during the holidays should be fun. It shouldn’t be filled with worry and stress. Using a credit card instead of cash or a debit card can make travel during the holidays less stressful and less risky. Use these five tips to keep from becoming a victim of credit card fraud.

Pick One Card

Pick one credit card to take with you. Make sure you have a copy of it, but store this copy in a safe place. Carrying multiple cards can lead to the loss of one or more of them.  When you pack for traveling remember to remove all other cards and store them in a secure location.  If your wallet or purse get stolen while you are traveling it is much easier to deal with one stolen card instead of six.

Separate Your Credit Card from Purse or Wallet

Don’t keep your credit card in your purse or wallet. Purses and wallets, particularly  Continue reading 5 Credit Card Safety Tips for Travel during the Holidays

The Pros and Cons of Using Pay Anywhere Card Readers

Gone are the days of having to be tied down to a computer to process a payment in the world of small business. Thanks to a wonderful little idea called a Pay Anywhere card reader, you can actually accept payments anywhere that you can carry a smart phone.  Pay Anywhere is certainly not the only player in the game where card readers are concerned, but they are the most respected. Despite the great reviews for this product, however, there are a handful of concerns as well. Here is a look at the pros and cons of Pay Anywhere:

Pros of Pay Anywhere card readers

The primary positive for these little card readers would be the fact that you can get paid anywhere. Just being able to whip out the little thing and swipe a credit card on the spot will give you great freedom as a small business owner. It provides convenience to the customer and at the same time gives you the flexibility to do business anywhere.

Another great reason to go with Pay Anywhere card readers is because it has the lowest transaction fees in the business. It is cheaper than any other credit card processor, thereby saving you and the customer  money once again.

You can feel great confidence in the accuracy of this fine product, simply because it has been around longer than any other card reader service. It started way back in 1992 and continues to this day. That type of longevity can go a long way towards giving you confidence.

Finally, Pay Anywhere has a dedicated customer service line that can help you when you need it. Whether it is a technical problem or a customer service issue, Pay Anywhere is there to talk it over and work it out.

Cons of Pay Anywhere card readers Continue reading The Pros and Cons of Using Pay Anywhere Card Readers

Traveling for the holidays? Prevent Credit Card Fraud and Save Money

The holiday season is one for joyful celebration, thankfulness, and traveling to visit loved ones. During your travels, you might be tempted by a low posted price at the gas station, but make sure to pay attention to what your fuel is really costing you.

Debit and Credit Cards Can Increase Prices

Often, fuel prices posted on the main signs show the cash only price, and the station could charge as much as 10-15 cents more per gallon for the convenience of swiping your card at the pump. While stations are required to post the increased price of credit and debit card transactions, the label is usually as small as a normal 4×6 photograph!

Gas stations often will put a hold on your card when you swipe for fill-up, and this can be as much as $75 for several days. You can avoid the hold if you go inside and specify how much you want the card run for.

You can avoid the higher cost by using only cash, or you can purchase prepaid cards from the gas station before you go. If you do opt to buy the prepaid cards, make sure to map out your route and make sure you’ll be able to find those stations along your route.

Be Watchful For Signs of Fraud

Electronic skimmers have been around for a long time, but the devices are well camouflaged and often pass unnoticed. Thieves install the small devices into existing card readers, which collect card information whenever a card is swiped. Don’t use any card reader that appears to be loose or damaged, and look out for signs of tampering. Going inside to pay minimizes the risk of having your card numbers stolen by these devices.

Some gas stations have added special stickers that are designed to show if a pump or card reader has been tampered with, so be sure to pay attention to these also.

Cash is Safest

Not only will cash get you the low price that attracted your business in the first place, but it will protect your identity and avoid problems with your accounts being overcharged or overdrawn. It might be inconvenient to go inside to pay, but it’s far better than the work of repairing your identity.

Your holiday travel plans don’t have to increase your risk of credit card fraud or identity theft. With a little pre-planning and a healthy dose of caution, you can enjoy your trip and protect your good name.


5 Ways to Make Sure Your Teen Is Using Their First Credit Card Safely

If there’s one thing teenagers are good at, it’s wanting. They want later curfews with fewer check-ins, they want to take the car out on weekends without telling you where they’re going, and most of all they want a credit card to call their very own. Now, there’s nothing wrong with teaching your teen how to build and use credit responsibly, but if you’re going to pick up a piece of plastic for your kid these days, you need to be extra-vigilant about how they use it. Why? Because credit card theft has changed since you were a kid.

These days, a thief doesn’t even need to pick your teen’s pocket to steal that first credit card. They can just skim it with a hidden device on a gas pump, or read the information wirelessly from a hacked cell phone. So if you want to make sure your child’s first foray into the world of credit is a safe and happy experience, try following these 5 steps to make sure they’re using their credit card responsibly.

1)    Don’t just give them your premier credit card. If you’re going to give your teen a copy of one of your credit cards instead of signing them up for their own, make sure it isn’t your ultra-exclusive credit card with the $10,000 limit. That’s like handing your kid the keys to a new Corvette the day they get their license and telling them to step on it. Instead, start them out with one of your low-limit cards – like the one you use for online shopping. This way, if and when they lose the card, you can cancel it before any serious damage is done to your credit score.

2)    Monitor their credit scores. Under federal law, everyone is entitled to a free annual credit check from each of the three major monitoring services – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. You should use these free reports to check up on your teen’s credit score every four months. Not only will you be able to see if they’ve been using their card responsibly, but you can also check the charges for suspicious activity.

3)    Teach them to use a shredder. One of the most common ways for thieves to get hold of personal information like credit card numbers is by sifting through trash cans and dumpsters for old statements and bills. That’s why it’s important to get your teen into the habit of shredding all of their bank statements and credit card bills before throwing them away. It’s a cheap and easy way to ensure that sensitive information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

4)    Make sure they’re using their credit cards online, not their debit cards. It can be hard for teenagers to tell the difference between a credit card and a debit card, but they’re going to have to learn if they ever want to shop online. Why? Because credit cards offer a number of protections under the CARD Act that will limit your teen’s liability if their information is ever stolen from a merchant database. Debit cards, on the other hand, don’t offer these protections at all.

5)    Keep their computers clean. Even if your teen uses his or her credit card responsibly, information can still be stolen by malware hidden on their computer. It only takes one wrong click on a phony email or website link to download this dastardly software, and once it’s on a computer it can transmit personal information to hackers for years. That’s why you should install malware removal software on any computer that your teen uses to transmit credit card information. By running regular checks and removing suspicious files when they’re discovered, you can make sure that your teen’s computer stays as safe as it was the day you bought it.

Nowadays, credit cards are as much a risk for teens as they are a resource. Thieves are waiting around every corner, so it’s important to keep an eye on the way your teen  is using that first credit card. By teaching your teenager how to check credit reports, shred personal documents and use credit cards online, you can help your child develop healthy habits. You’ll be teaching your son or daughter how to spend safely well into adulthood. Then the only thing you have to worry about is that whitewater rafting trip the gang is planning for next summer.



Thank you to our guest author Bill Hazelton of CreditCardAssist.com! 

Bill Hazelton is the founder and CEO of CreditCardAssist, a leading pro-consumer credit card resource. Since 2004, he’s been providing American consumers with all the tips, tricks and news they need to navigate the world of personal finance. His on-site reports have been cited by the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Post, Yahoo! News and more.



“Anonymous” targets Stratfor: Credit card data information breach

Over the holiday weekend, it wasn’t only the elves that were busy or naughty little children that were disappointed.  The hacker collective known as “Anonymous” was busy in his and/or her workshop too creating a data breach targeting Stratfor, an international security think tank.
Who is Stratfor?
Stratfor, based in Austin, Texas “provides political, economic and military analysis to help clients reduce risk” according to their own promotions. 
Who is Anonymous?
Well, who knows really but Anonymous is a group of hackers who’ve hacked off several companies in the past year and then tweeted taunts from their own twitter account.  Anonymous is known for their signature stamp of a circle that reads “Anonymous is legion.  We do not forget.  We do not forgive.”  On the outside there is a circular chain and on the inside a headless business suit.  Hmmm… It kind of looks like a regrettable tattoo.
What the hackers did:
1. Anonymous reportedly ransacked Stratfor’s computers, stealing thousands of credit card number and other personal information.
2. To date, Anonymous has published two lists of credit card details to the Internet with of total of about 17,000 credit card listings.
3. There have also been large donations made from the credit cards to charities such as the Red Cross.
“These donations will never reach the ones in need,” writes Mikko Hypponen at F-Secure. “In fact, these actions will just end up hurting the charities, not helping them.  Credit card companies will do a chargeback to the charities, which will have to return the money. In some cases, charities could be hit with penalties. At the very least, they will lose time and money in handling chargebacks.”
What the hackers claimed to have done:
Anonymous also claims to have gleaned the company’s confidential client list containing sensitive information about high profile clients that just might include Apple, the U.S. Air Force and the Miami P.D. Continue reading “Anonymous” targets Stratfor: Credit card data information breach

Credit card bazaar: $3.50 for stolen credit cards sold online

Many of us go shopping for the best possible credit card, looking for interest rates trying to avoid fees and charges and hopefully finding some great rewards to benefit our family. Sometimes we contact our bank or stores in order to shop for those credit cards that we will really use. I guess it should come as no surprise that those wanting to use credit cards illegally also go shopping online to find their rock bottom, best possible credit card deal.

The Washington Post and Bloomberg reports that a European hacker online name “Poxxie” obtained over 1,400 credit card numbers with all their information including expiration codes, security codes, names and address of the credit card holders and then sold them on his online store CVVs.in. Ironically, he claims that his sales are so popular because he is honest and that underworld buyers have come to trust the “quality of his goods.”  Unfortunately his site registered in India, making it even that much more difficult to catch cyber thieves in “the act.”

Just like any other online site from Amazon to eBay shoppers can sort and shop online, sorting and finding the “goods” they want by bank card, type, credit limit and even zip code. (My question is how do they pay for it, I wouldn’t trust an online credit card transaction, these are thieves and fraudsters after all.)

Continue reading Credit card bazaar: $3.50 for stolen credit cards sold online

Over 100 counts in latest arrest of identity theft ring in Denver, Colorado

Colorado is home to the latest indicted identity theft ring.  A grand jury has indicted 16 people on 168 counts including forgery, money laundering and identity theft.
The indictment reveals that police first discovered the crime ring when 26 year old Laura Fritz, a defendant who will be issued a summons to appear in court, went to the Lakewood Police Department in January of 2011 and reported knowledge of two identity theft rings.
The statewide identity theft rings with defendants ranging in age from 19 to 47, victimized over 100 Colorado businesses and residents including victim Shirley Christmon from Westminster who says she found out when her bank called her and said, ‘We’ve got some charges on your account, and we want to know did you make those?’ and her response was “No, I didn’t make any of these.'”
The following defendants have been arrested and are being held on bonds from $10,000 to $60,000 to $100,000:
Matthew Mccluskey, 47
Brittany Cox, 21
Matthew Leman, 30
Jennifer Spade, 41
Lauren Ciparro, 19
Johnnie Main, 20
Carla Cominiello, 30
Michael Dicino, 28
Teresa Kidlow, 35
Michael Relic, 42
Several defendants still remain at large including:
Robert Turner, 46
Alyse Shank, 19
William Joseph Roberts, 45
Jennifer Putman, 28
Roy B. Frank, 36
According to the indictment, the group would steal people’s personal and financial information and then put the information on fake IDs and forged checks. They would then use the fake documents at businesses and banks through out Colorado.
According to an 85 page redacted public copy of charges from the District Court of Arapahoe County, Colorado some of the crimes included:  Continue reading Over 100 counts in latest arrest of identity theft ring in Denver, Colorado

Don’t let ‘Season’s Greetings’ become ‘Season’s Stealings’

Tis the season to be jolly, but your holiday joy may not be so merry and bright should you run across any of these popular holidays horror stories, from fraud to computer viruses.

Avoid seeing red after starting your holiday season shopping on Black Friday. Before you head out to the stores make sure you clean out your wallet.  Yes, that’s right.  Take only the credit or debit card that you plan on using and your Driver’s License.   It only takes a minute to lift your wallet or purse from your shopping cart or back pocket and the more you have in there, the more you have to loose.

Make a list and check it twice. Store your credit cards and other financial information in a safe place.  Make copies of those cards that you are carrying with you and be sure to attach contact information to your copies.   This way if something does go wrong, you have all the information you need to start making it right.

Don’t be snowed under by requests for your information. Whether it is a pretending to be a non-profit agency or a “seller” of the latest and greatest tech gadgets that everyone must have, don’t supply your credit or debit card, checking or savings information over the phone or over the Internet.  Identity thieves and credit card fraudster know what you want this holiday season, and they want it too.  They just want you to pay for it.

Wrap up those receipts. Continue reading Don’t let ‘Season’s Greetings’ become ‘Season’s Stealings’