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Today’s thieves have found creative ways to steal our personal information, as well as our property.

For instance, you may have seen news reports about skimming devices installed on ATMs or gas pumps. These devices were recently attached to pumps at gas stations throughout Wisconsin.

Thieves have also found a way into autos with keyless entry systems. I’ve seen reports where shoppers walked out of a store only to discover the car is gone. Even worse are the stories of people who find their cars have been stolen from their driveways!

As thieves continue to find new ways to take our valuables, we need to know how to protect ourselves. From a debit/credit card perspective, I believe my bank is doing a good job protecting my family. In the last couple of years, they issued new cards for us because of strange activity on them. We recently received cards with the chip, so we’ll see how well that works.

Next time you pull into a gas station or use an ATM, here are some tips that could help protect your identity and personal finances.

1. Public view. Consider using ATMs that are in public view or in a high-traffic area. Skimmers need to be attached to the ATMs by the thieves, so they need time to work. An ATM in a low traffic area is probably the perfect target for them.

2. Take a peek. Before using an ATM or gas pump, look it over. Law enforcement professionals recommend looking for loose card readers by gently touching them, looking for scratches, and determining if safety seals have been broken or tampered with.

3. Review your checking account transactions frequently. My wife constantly monitors our checking account. I’m not sure, however, if she’s really looking for suspicious activity or just making sure my spending habits are in line.

4. Look over your shoulder. Lately, I’ve been looking over my shoulder to see if anybody or anything is lurking around. I also started covering the key pad when entering my pin number.

5. Debit vs. credit. Some vendors prefer that customers use debit cards so they can avoid the fees charged by credit card companies. If, however, you have the option, to use your credit card instead of your debit card, it will offer additional protection since you don’t have to enter your PIN. My wife always uses the credit card at the pump simply because it’s easier.

Here’s an interesting video from ABC News that illustrates how skimming works and how to protect yourself. 

When it comes to key fobs, there are a few ways to protect yourself. While these tips may not be convenient for you, they give you some protection options.

1. Distance. Put some distance between your keys and your car. Experts believe thieves are using some type of electronic extender that intercepts your key fobs signal and leads your car to believe your key fob is close by.

2. Store your key fob in a metal box. Storing your key fob in a metal box can contain the signal so if thieves are hiding outside your home, they can’t retrieve the signal.

3. Use the interior automatic door lock. When in a parking lot, many people lock their doors with the key fob as they’re walking away from the car. If thieves are parked nearby, they can get the signal and use it to unlock your car once you’re inside. Consider using the door lock on your armrest inside of your car before heading toward the store or restaurant. 

Thieves are always finding new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting people. I hope these tips will help keep you and your family safe.


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