Protecting yourself

Rent a movie, lose your identity

Emily Crone

You’ve probably seen a redbox, that large DVD rental machine, at your local McDonalds or Wal-Mart. Perhaps you regularly rent movies from one of the 7,400 machines across the country. An American Banker newsletter just put word out that the redbox company has fallen victim to a skim scam. Because of this, some redbox customers may find themselves identity theft victims.

For those a little behind the curve, skimming is a method some thieves use to steal credit card information. They run your credit card through a skimmer, a small electronic device that scans and stores credit card data. It can be used by a rogue bar or restaurant employee — they can swipe your card through the skimmer and steal your information while you’re at the other end of the room. In fact, this has become enough of a problem that certain restaurants have implemented credit card machines in which patrons swipe the credit cards at the table themselves.

Skimmers can also be attached to an ATM machine or gas station pump (or a redbox), appearing to be the place where you swipe your credit card for a transaction, but instead covering the real swiping mechanism. In the process, the magnetic stripe on your card sends your credit card information to the skimmer, and you don’t get a bank transaction, gas or movie. At a later date, the thief retrieves his or her skimmer, which is most likely loaded with credit card data that can be used for fraudulent purchases.

On redbox’s corporate Web site, a security alert has been placed, informing consumers of credit card skimming attempts on their machines. Trina Graham-Hodo, director of customer service, and Bill Caputo, director of security, write that several days ago, an illicit skimming machine was found on a redbox machine in Tempe, Ariz., and was removed before the thief could retrieve it. At two other locations, both in Las Cruces, N.M., evidence of skimming attempts were found.

The directors say the company is unaware of any fraudulent activity or transactions using customers’ accounts, which means the skimming attempts may have been unsuccessful. They say the company has taken measures to minimize the risk of future skimming attempts.

Additionally, the security alert provides advice on how consumers can help stop the skim scam. “It never hurts to pay a little extra attention and check for any unusual activities or changes to your local redbox,” the directors say. At the bottom of the alert page, they provide images of two legitimate redbox credit card readers and images of two skimming devices attached to a redbox machine. If you use redbox, study the images.

If you suspect your local redbox has been tampered with, call 630-756-8866, e-mail or notify the manager of the store or restaurant in which the redbox is located.

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  • Wow, good thing there aren’t any of those close to my house, Id be pretty tempted to use them, they’re so dang cheap…at least the one at the walmart in my city is.

  • The Red Box was great when we were on vacation in the boonies of NH and had run through our Netflix DVDs. We’ll have to check our statements just to be safe… Thanks for the heads up!