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What is card cloning? How can you be safe?

Last updated on: July 15, 2010 20:15 IST

What is card cloning? How can you be safe?

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How safe is your credit card? Plastic money that lets you buy almost everything by just swiping the card can also turn out to be your worst nightmare.

A gang of credit card cloners with several cloned debit and credit cards of different banks and a card swipe machine were arrested by the Delhi police in June 2010 after the police received complaints from banks like Standard Chartered, ICICI and Kotak Mahindra Bank.

This is not an isolated incident. With the use of the credit and debit cards on the rise, their misappropriation has become a major worry for one and all. Credit card users in India have been robbed of crores of rupees due to card-cloning over the years.

International bank cards frauds have also risen taking advantages of the loopholes in the system. In many cases, Indians have used details from foreign credits cards to swipe away millions.

The offenders often get away as laws are not very stringent in India for such acts of crime. The maximum punishment would be imprisonment for up to three years.

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Image: Beware of card cloners.

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What is card cloning? How can you be safe?

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How do credit cards get cloned?

Credit card-cloning, or skimming, is a method by which someone obtains your credit card details, copies them onto a bogus card and begins using the credit card.

Waiters, shop assistants, courier boys and even MBA graduates have been arrested in the past for stealing vital information, making clone cards and spending crores of rupees.

How is cloning done?

A device with a scanning slot can be easily procured from the shops, or even ordered online. The fraudsters swipe customers' credit cards discreetly through the device that comes with a software that can store information from about 3,000 cards.

It just takes a few seconds to swipe the card and transfer the card details into this device. This information can be then be copied on to expired, blank or stolen cards to make a clone of the original card.

Such China-made data readers are priced between Rs 30,000 and Rs 50,000.

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Image: Credit card frauds rise.

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What is card cloning? How can you be safe?

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What kind of details will the fraudster get?

The magnetic strip gives the credit card number, name on the credit card and the expiry date. However, the name and address of the person is not revealed.

Is there any way to know the card has been misused?

Unless the bank intimates you each time the card is being swiped, there is no other way that you can come to know about it till you get the monthly statement.

Is there a solution?

One solution is to have credit cards with smart chips. Smart chips are microchips embedded in some credit cards that encrypt the information contained in the magnetic strip. If a fraudster tries to scan any information, he will only get encrypted information and will not be able to transfer information from your credit card.

You have to be very careful when you give your card for swiping. You should keep looking at what the person is doing with it. Make sure he gives it back immediately.

If you think the envelope containing the credit card (when it arrives from the credit card provider) is tampered with, do not accept it.

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Image: Frausters on the prowl.

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What is card cloning? How can you be safe?

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While using your card at a shop, do not let anyone swipe your card twice without giving you a 'transaction cancelled' receipt. Do not sign a blank transaction receipt.

While using the card online, you should be very careful. Ensure they do not save your credit card details. Only use your credit card to shop at reputable sites.

How can you prevent your card from data theft?

Prevention is always better than cure. Here's how you can prevent credit card frauds:

Keep your bank informed of your current contact details. If there is any change in your address, you should immediately inform the bank.

If your card is lost or stolen, or if you have any doubt about its usage, inform the bank immediately.

Do not make the mistake of e-mailing your credit card number ever, to anyone.

Register for a free card protection service such as Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode.


Image: Be vigilant.

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What is card cloning? How can you be safe?

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Be careful while withdrawing cash from ATMs and destroy the slips. Some fraudsters fit devices for cloning cards over the existing slot. If there is a slight difference in the card reader slot, do not use the machine.

Secure your card with a PIN number. Change your PIN number at regular intervals. Always destroy the letter with the PIN number.

Keep your receipts to check if they match with the monthly statement.

While throwing away expired card, make sure you cut it through the magnetic strip.

Never reveal your card details or PIN number to anyone who may seem to be calling from your bank, nor should you reply to any mails originating from the bank. A bank employee will never ask you for your password.


Image: Be careful at ATMs.

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