The leader of a criminal ring who targeted foreign tourists visiting New York has been sentenced to 39 months in prison for credit card fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to U.S. government agents.
The swindle highlights the need for credit cardholders to be vigilant about keeping tabs on their credit cards, online and offline.
Here's how the ringleader's scam worked: He gave an electronic device known as a "skimmer" to a cashier at a high-end retail store and paid the cashier to use the device on his behalf. The cashier attached the skimmer to his belt and swiped unsuspecting customers' credit cards, capturing their account information. The ringleader then downloaded the information onto counterfeit cards he purchased overseas and used the cards to buy high-priced electronics at local retail stores.
The scammers targeted foreign tourists because they were less likely to detect the fraud until they'd returned to their home countries, allowing the criminals more time to run up unauthorized charges before the card issuers froze the accounts.
But credit card fraud can happen to anyone, anywhere. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to protect against credit card fraud, courtesy of MasterCard.
- Keep track of your credit cards, and regularly review your statements. If you notice any unusual or unauthorized transactions, contact your issuer as soon as possible.
- Be wary of unsolicited phone calls or email, text or social media messages that request credit card data or personal information, such as passwords, date of birth or a Social Security number.
- Examine any links in email messages or attachments no matter how harmless or familiar the links might appear. If you can't confirm the sender is legitimate, delete the message.
- If you mistakenly follow a suspicious link or text message and provide your credit card information, contact your card issuer immediately so your account can be protected.
- Update anti-malware, anti-spam and firewall software on your home computer.
- Never share your credit card information via an email or text message.
- Always leave a website immediately if it appears in any way suspicious.
Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff.