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Malware attacks cash registers

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Monday, October 28, 2013
Posted: 6 pm ET

Skimmers aren't the only way fraudsters are stealing credit card information at cash registers. Now, they're using malware.

This year, several malware programs popped up worldwide that pick up card data at point-of-sale terminals and transmit the information to a so-called command center controlled by the thieves. That means you could be completing a purchase at a store, and all of your card data is being sent not only into the retailer's system but directly to criminals as well.

Trusteer, a cybercrime prevention company founded by IBM, detailed the new malware in a recent blog on its website. One particular malware called Dexter runs on Windows platforms and disguises itself as Internet Explorer. So far, 200 to 300 attacks have been recorded in 40 countries, according to Trusteer.

This remote means of stealing credit card information differs from skimmers, which are devices that are physically placed over the machines where payment cards are swiped. These devices save the card data, but must be removed at some point for fraudsters to retrieve. This scheme usually involves someone on the inside, such as a store clerk or waiter, or is used on public card readers like ATMs or unmanned gas station kiosks.

With the new malware scam, it's unknown how the malware infects the point-of-sale terminals in the first place.

Despite the differences in attacks, you should take the same safety precautions to protect your credit cards. Always scan your recent purchases listed online to make sure they're yours. If you find something that looks suspicious, contact your credit card issuer right away.

It's also a good idea to pull your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com to make sure the fraud hasn't spread beyond that one account. You're entitled to one free report from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion every 12 months under federal law.

Fortunately, your credit card issuer also is looking out for fraud and often catches it before you do. That's because card companies are on the hook for any losses. If your credit card account information is stolen, your liability is nothing. (If your actual credit card is stolen, your liability maxes out at $50 under federal law.)

So, while malware and skimmers may sound scary, there are protections out there for you.

Has your credit card information ever been stolen? How did you find out?

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron.

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35 Comments
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October 29, 2013 at 5:56 pm

When planning and arranging our daughter's nuptials quite a few years ago our credit card information was stolen and over $12,000.00 was charged and paid for by the card company. This was in Houston and carried out by a group of Nigerians who fled the USA when their storage location was raided with no one apprehended. What is really puzzling is that no one knows how the card number and our other information was obtained. So it does occur and we were responsible for but $50.00 since we received no billings and made no inquiries for just over three months.

Linda Menger
October 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Please don't ever think this won't happen to you. We went through two years and nine attacks of someone trying to obtain credit with some of our information, in addition to charging things as far away as Germany. It's not just a simple matter to straighten all this out, we were lucky they never actually got through because we had written so many letters to the credit bureaus, the companies and to our local police departments. I also had to write to the Federal Trade Commission. Many months of correspondence back and forth and only now have we been free of attacks for almost a year. The downside to all this you never feel safe again.

Donald Bailey
October 29, 2013 at 3:33 pm

I discovered my Wells Fargo Credit Card info was stolen when I received my monthly statement which showed a $600 + purchase I did not make.

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