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‘It’s unbelievable’: Criminals begin to target credit card chips

FISHERS, Ind (WISH) – As credit card anti-fraud technology improves, so too are the criminals looking to steal information.

A simple task of swiping a credit card is creating problems across the United State. Criminals have developed ways to steal information. Although Bonnie Cate thought she was protected.

“I think you fall into this sense of security that it’s not going to happen to me,” Cate said.

This all changed in January, after she got a call asking if she made a several hundred dollar purchase at the Wal-Mart in Fishers.

“I was confused,” Cate said. “I was like, how in the world did this happen? I use my debit card all the time, and so it could’ve happened anywhere.”

She filed a report with Fishers Police Department. And sure enough officers said, cameras captured the suspect walking out with the stolen merchandise.

“I was just angry,” Cate said. “You know it’s that feeling you get whenever somebody takes something from you. You know? And you’re just a law abiding citizens trying do the right thing, work hard, and then there are these people out there that steal from you.”

One piece of security Cate did not have, a chip in her card. Last year, many banks switched to the chip.

Instead of swiping, you stick the card in a reader. This creates a unique transaction, making it harder for people to steal your identity. Technology, Fishers Detective Dean Mucha embraced.

“I was excited, hoping that fraud would be cut down a little bit,” Detective Mucha said.

While Detective Mucha says the chips have helped, this doesn’t mean the fraud has gone away. He said criminals are focusing on certain businesses. They’re creating maps showing which stores don’t use chip readers, making them easy targets.

“When one technology takes place, they’re going to find a way around it, and I think they are in the process of doing that right now,” Detective Mucha said.

Detective Mucha said in Europe criminals are manipulating the credit card terminals and copying that unique code that chip card give a retailer. He said they then go to stores that don’t use a chip.

That’s why he says more stores should use the chips. Credit card companies asked, didn’t require, businesses and banks to make the switch in October.

If they didn’t, they could be held responsible for damages. Problem is, many stores didn’t. During VISA’s first quarterly earnings call for this year, executives revealed only 17 percent of stores nationwide use the technology.

One of the shops that did switch is Motion Cycling and Fitness in Fishers.

“The more people that come in with chip cards, I think they’re going to start to demand that service, so we just did it,” Motion Cycling and Fitness owner Chris Richter said.

Richter said he added the technology in December.

“It’s pretty easy,” Richter said. “You just call up your provider and ask them for a new terminal with a chip reader and it was about $300.”

A small price to pay which is why he’s surprised more owners haven’t upgraded.

“You could potentially save yourself thousands of dollars in litigation if something where to happen,” Richter said.

Cate knows firsthand something can happen. She does use the chip technology, but fears another call and sight of someone stealing from her could still be a reality.

“It’s just kind of unbelievable,” Cate said. “These scammers out there it always seems like they’re one step ahead. They figure out a way to scam you no matter what.”

The good news, VISA executives say more stores are upgrading software. By the end of the year, they expect half of all nationwide retailers to accept chips.

Right now, Fishers officers say the most credit card theft comes from skimmers at gas stations. The best way to protect yourself, don’t pay at the pump. Go inside and pay with the clerk.