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Traveling abroad can be a fun experience, but it’s not so great if you’re impacted by credit card fraud during your trip. Travelers should be on their guard to prevent their cards from being compromised.
For instance, Vickie from Houston writes that she traveled to Mexico last year and was scammed by a Pemex gas station in Cabo while using her Capital One card. According to her, “It’s all over the internet how they do this. They basically take your card, tell you it does not work and you have to pay cash for the gas. In the meantime, they have run your card without your knowing on a Square on their cellphone. In my case it was over $1K. It was done by some company called El Rincon even though I was at Pemex.” She adds that she has disputed this charge with Capital One, but it’s been of no avail.
What is credit card skimming fraud?
Credit card skimming is a crime that’s typically associated with gas stations and automated teller machines (ATMs). Criminals can attach skimmers, which are small devices that read your card information, at card readers at a gas station (or other retail locations). These devices can capture your card information from your card’s magnetic strip when you pay. It’s even possible for skimmers to use Bluetooth devices to steal your information and pass it on to an associate’s device.
Skimmers are small and unobtrusive devices, so it’s not easy to detect them. You should inspect a card reader to see if there is anything amiss. For instance, it may look bulgy or misaligned. You could also touch it to feel for any irregularities.
When a skimmer captures your card details — such as the card number, expiry date and your name — criminals can use this information to make counterfeits of your card. They could also sell the information to other crooks. When a counterfeit card with your account number on it is charged, the charge will post to your card account.
How to prevent card fraud when abroad
You should inform your bank when you plan to travel abroad so that it can flag any suspicious activity. Also, check your credit card statements to watch out for any transactions you don’t recognize.
Also, don’t let your card out of your sight. It’s possible for restaurant staff and other retail staff, including gas station attendants, to take your card information and commit fraud. Inform your bank at the earliest moment if you suspect your bank has been compromised.
Additionally, be wary of using public Wi-Fi networks that could be hacked and compromise your information.
Reporting card fraud when abroad
Consumers who have run into international fraud issues can put in a complaint with econsumer.gov. This is an initiative of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), in which more than 65 countries, including the U.S., participate. The initiative, started in 2001, aims to encourage consumer confidence in international transactions. It helps consumer protection agencies worldwide watch for trends and cooperate to prevent scams.
When you file a complaint with econsumer.gov about your credit card issue, your input will be shared with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and entered into a consumer complaint database. It will also be available to regulatory authorities in other countries. They can then take regulatory action and watch for trends. Econsumer.gov advises that the more information you can provide about your issue, such as specific dates and amounts, the better.
File a complaint with the bank’s regulator
Vickie, while you could put in a report with econsumer.gov, you shouldn’t necessarily expect an international agency to take up your specific issue. However, since you point out that this particular gas station issue has impacted multiple consumers, your complaint could help consumer protection agencies spot a trend and take action on that basis. That might help crack down on gas station card compromises.
Since you correctly turned to Capital One to dispute your issue, and it was of no avail, you could follow up with the bank’s regulator. You could also file a complaint with the FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
The bottom line
If you encounter credit card fraud, you should first file a dispute with your card issuer. If that does not resolve your issue, you could turn to regulatory authorities. Econsumer.gov accepts complaints related to international fraud, including card fraud. However, the initiative monitors consumer complaints to take broader action against criminal trends and may not resolve your individual issue. You may also file a complaint with your card issuer’s regulator and other government agencies. Vickie, I hope this helps you resolve your issue.
Contact me at email@example.com with your credit card-related questions.