Large scale events, whether in sports or music, take a host of people to make sure things run smoothly. However, making sure things go smoothly is not limited to the organizers. Bigger events that draw crowds of enthusiasts and supporters from across the globe can also, unfortunately, draw in some from the criminal element. It is important to apply the lessons learned from past experiences and breaches to our daily activities. Attendees of any large events should remain vigilant by implementing these tips to help protect their information on site.

Events with large, and even national and international crowds are juicy targets for criminals looking to cast a wide net to gather electronic information illegally. Before you swipe your card or connect your wireless device, make sure you perform a brief investigation.

What is a credit card skimmer?

A card skimmer is a device designed to collect your credit card information without your knowledge or consent. Typically these devices will be attached to an existing legitimate card reading interface, such as a public ATM or gas pump. Card skimmers are usually manufactured in such a way to evade detection from the casual consumer, often by simply fitting over an existing interface. However, sometimes there will be subtle clues to their presence, such as cutting off parts of a graphic or a small embossed section as seen in the image below.

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Card skimmers may not always be present in the form of a magnetic stripe scanner. Some card skimming methods involve the installation of a tiny pinhole camera strategically placed to record your card number and PIN. On the low-tech side, one of the most common methods for credit card theft remains humans manually collecting the information from the card.

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How to prevent credit card theft

Visually inspect card readers for tampering.
What you should be looking for are loose parts, offset keypads, or suspicious pinholes. Remember that generally ATMs don’t hide their cameras, which should be facing you, not your card or the keypad.

Wiggle everything!
Card skimmers are often attached using glue or double-stick tape that may not handle exposure to outside elements for prolonged periods. If a card reader or keypad seems loose, do not use the reader.

Keep your PIN hidden.
Always cover your hand while entering your PIN. Be aware of your surroundings and those standing near you.

Keep your card in sight.
Don’t let your credit card leave your sight if you can help it. When shopping at a retail location, watch where your card is swiped and follow the card wherever it is taken. This can be difficult in a restaurant environment where it is commonplace to leave with the customer’s credit card and return with the bill. If you’re uncomfortable with this situation, use cash.

Securing Data In Transmission

Not all credit card or data theft occurs from physical interface, however. The transmission of this data over networks could be potentially intercepted by nefarious actors. While traveling, you’re likely to connect to wifi controlled by another party such as a hotel or cafe.

Avoid insecure WiFi.
Public WiFi is convenient for the traveling mobile device user, but also notoriously dangerous. Use only WiFi with proper authentication and encryption methods, or purchase a cellular data plan from your carrier while traveling. Unsecured connections are typically indicated by a small orange alarm shield icon in a Windows PC, or the absence of a gray lock on Macs.
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Always use HTTPS on websites.
Avoid websites that to not support HTTPS through the use of an SSL certificate. SSL Certificates protect data in transit by encrypting the content being sent and received. HTTPS is identified by the small lock logo next to the site address in the URL bar. Different browsers may show the icon differently.
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Use an encrypted VPN service.
A virtual private network (VPN) is a private network that can be used while traversing a public network or internet. It enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks over an encrypted connection, adding a very substantial layer of protection for the data in transit. Many free and paid options are available to consumers.

If you think you may have found a card reader that has been tampered with, or your card information may have been stolen, contact local law enforcement immediately.

Applying these tips should not stop when you return home. Visit the main SiteLock blog for more security tips!