When customers at Aldi grocery stores in 11 states across the country used their credit cards to pay for their shopping trip over the summer, they may have accidentally exposed themselves to identity theft. According to a report from the store's vice president, customers who swiped their debit or credit cards at some of the chain's 1,100 stores in the U.S. between June 1 and August 31 may have done so using point of sale terminals that were tampered with by scam artists.
This method of identity theft, known as skimming, involves compromising a machine by attaching a small electronic device inside so that it is connected to the credit card reader. The gadget will then store all information for every credit card that's run through the machine, and, in the case of debit cards, may even record the associated PIN. After that, a thief can come back any time and pick up the information. Some skimming devices even allow them to access this information remotely.
This type of scam can be particularly troublesome because it's impossible to tell the crime has taken place until you review your credit card bill or check your bank statements. Paying for items in cash can help you avoid this problem, though it can be much less convenient.
Checking your financial documents regularly for discrepancies or unexpected charges can also help protect you from identity theft. If you find errors, you should not only alert the credit card lender and bank about the potential fraud, but also local authorities, such as the police and your district attorney. As the Aldi case illustrates, if you have been affected by a crime like this, it's likely that many other people have been as well. However, they may not be aware of the possible crime yet, and your report could alert authorities to a larger problem.
If you believe your identity may have been compromised, you can benefit from enrolling in a credit monitoring service. Such a program allows you to check your credit report as often as you like, and also, alert you to credit activity occurring in your name.