Recently, Boris Toumasian was convicted of multiple offenses involving identity theft and sentenced to federal prison for a term of five years. Toumasian, who had worked at a BP gas station, installed skimmers on the gas pumps at the gas station. For those of you new to this website/blog who might be unfamiliar with skimmers, they are small devices that are used to read and store the information from your credit cards. In this case, the skimmers were installed over the legitmate card swiping mechanism on the gas pumps at the gas station where Toumasian worked. Toumasian took the information gathered from the skimmer and transferred it to American Express Gift cards which he then used to make purchases using his victims’ credit and debit card accounts.
Sometimes skimmers are used by identity thieves who are employed in legitimate stores, restaurants and other establishments where you would pay by providing your credit or debit card to the employee. They run your card through the skimmer at the same time that they legitimately charge your card for the service or product purchased. Other times, skimmer devices are installed over credit card swiping mechanisms such as you would find at an ATM or gas pump. When you hand your card to a clerk for a purchase, try to watch your card at all times. When you use your card by way of a card swiping mechanism, look to see if the mechanism appears to have been tampered with in any way. Also, make sure that you carefully check your monthly credit card statements and bank statements each month to discover as quickly as possible if you have become a victim of identity theft. Identifying a loss early is particularly important when using a debit card which does not provide the same level of legal protection that a credit card does.