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I recently had my credit card information stolen and used. I think whoever did it used a scanner (maybe at a gas station). Is there a way to take precautions against this?

(A Lake Oswego police officer or firefighter answers readers' questions each week in this space. To submit a question, call Editor Gary M. Stein at 503-636-1281 ext. 102 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

I recently had my credit card information stolen and used. I think whoever did it used a scanner (maybe at a gas station). Is there a way to take precautions against this?

PETERSONIf you had your debit/credit card information stolen (meaning your name, the card number and the expiration date) but you still have the card in your possession, you are not the only one. There are a couple of ways this could have happened.

-- The first way is a point-of-sale/ATM manipulation. That is when the bad guy attaches a device to a credit card machine like a gas pump or an ATM. This device records the information from your card and will often have a small camera attached to record your PIN (personal identification number) as you enter it. Some of these are attached to the exterior of the machine, but others are internal. The suspect either sits within range of the device for a signal, or the device records the information and the suspect downloads it later.

How do you prevent your information being stolen this way? Keep an eye out for something on the ATM or pay point that looks different. Also, you can conceal your PIN entry with your other hand. It may look silly to the other customers, but it reduces the chances of cash removal from your account. If you see something that looks out of place, contact the police department. The internal devices are a lot more difficult to discover.

-- The next way is a "hack" of a third-party processor. That is when you use your debit/credit card to pay for something and the information is hacked from the company that takes the information from the store/restaurant and sends it to the banks. We have seen this a lot lately, and it has also been in the news. There is nothing you can do to prevent this theft other than to pay with cash when possible.

-- Another way is by employee theft. This is when you give an employee your card to pay and they run it through a secondary card swipe that records the information. They will also try to watch as you enter your PIN. Things to look for in these cases are multiple swipes of your card from different sources and notes on scrap paper with four-digit numbers. If you see these things, report them to the police department.

Ultimately, you can do everything right and your information will still get out there in today's digital world. Be diligent in monitoring your accounts, and when you catch unauthorized transactions, report them to your bank and have your account closed. And also report it to the police department. The Lake Oswego Police Department has had success tracking these type of thieves and putting together cases for prosecution.

If you have a specific request or see a violation occur, the Lake Oswego Police Department encourages all citizens to contact the non-emergency line at 503-635-0238 and an officer will be dispatched as soon as available.

— Sgt. James Peterson

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