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July 16th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) While not a new problem in Costa Rica, credit and debit card fraud through the use of electronic devices called ‘skimmers’ is becoming ever more common as the skimming devices become ever easier to obtain.
The devices do their work after a criminal inserts the thin plastic device into an ATM machine’s card reader. The device than reads and stores every ATM users’ card information the moment they insert the card into the machine. The criminal returns later in the day and retrieves the device, which may by then have the full data of hundreds of cards stored on it. That information is later used to create clones of the users’ cards, or for online purchases.
Most of the devices allow the ATM machine to function like normal, and as a result many users have no idea that their card information has just been stolen.
Inside Costa Rica first reported on a rash of such scams in March 2013. Recent reports by readers indicate that the scam is back and claiming more victims.
One reader reported to Inside Costa Rica that criminals nabbed $600 from her account and $2,000 from two other friends’ accounts earlier this month using ATM skimming devices, one of which was apparently installed at the Banco Costa Rica branch location in Grecia.
Upon notifying their banks (both U.S. and Costa Rican cards were cloned), the reader’s friends were directed to file a report at the courthouse, where she reportedly learned that a rash of clonings have occurred in recent weeks in six cities across the country.
Francisco Segura of the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ) said last year that many cardholders have no idea that they have become victims, and that many times it is instead the banks that alert judicial authorities to possible fraud.
In an operation last year, the OIJ conducted 13 raids in various locations, collecting evidence such as payment receipts, skimming devices, and computers.
The skimmers are also sometimes placed in the credit card terminals at retail establishments, restaurants, and other places that accept credit cards.
The skimming devices used by criminals can be found for sale on certain web sites in Costa Rica, sometimes carrying a price tag of nearly 1 million colones ($2,000).
To avoid becoming the victim of these fraudsters, it is suggested to check closely the area on ATM machines where you insert your card for anything that may look like a hidden our out of place device, and also to not allow retail clerks, gas station attendants, and others to take your card out of sight.