Salvation Army chapters in major cities have deployed even more credit card-enabled red kettles for this holiday season. However, some consumers worry that fraudsters with credit card skimmers could hijack donors' goodwill, along with their identities. According to law enforcement officials, skimming rings prey on consumers too busy to think critically about their surroundings. For instance:
- Legitimate charities partner with retailers to place donation stations with prominent signs at their entrances. Phony donation scams tend to take place more discreetly, on street corners or on sidewalks. If you're not sure about a representative, officials say, you can always donate by credit card on an organization's website.
- Skimmers at self-service credit card terminals, gas pumps, and ATMs only work when consumers ignore warning signs. Law enforcement agencies encourage consumers to look for signs of tampering, such as broken or missing surveillance cameras or loose magnetic strip readers.
- Cashiers tapping a card on a counter before swiping it could be using hidden video cameras to copy payment information. A credit card that disappears into an apron or other clothing could be swiped through a handheld skimmer. Officials urge consumers to keep their eyes on their credit cards whenever possible.
Personal finance experts advise using a credit card or a "firewall" debit card tied to a secondary checking account to prevent fraudsters from gaining access to your cash this holiday season.