Fast food employee highlights credit card risk

Last week, police busted a woman working at a Wendy's restaurant for credit card fraud.

They say that when customers in the drive through used a credit card to pay for their food, she would swipe their cards through a credit card reader that captures all the card's information. She would take the tiny reader home and download all the data to a laptop computer for her own use. Police say she was making fake credit cards with customers' real data and going shopping with those cards, victimizing between 40 and 50 Wendy's customers.

This is a risk any time we hand our credit cards to someone and can't see what's happening to it. The credit card readers (often called skimmers) are inexpensive, sometimes as cheap as $100. They can fit nicely into someone's pocket, so whenever a server at a restaurant walks away with your card, you may be at risk.

Since it's not always possible to keep an eye on your credit card, what can you do? The best advice is to routinely check your credit card balances online. I check mine once per day to make sure that there aren't any unusual charges. That way, if someone has stolen my credit card information, I'll be able to stop their theft early.

Consumers usually aren't liable for fraudulent charges on their credit cards, but it still pays to stop these crimes quickly. It will be much easier to clean up the mess if it's smaller. And by stopping the thief, you save all consumers money.... their theft is paid for by all of us via higher fees and rates.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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