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How To Avoid Becoming Victim Of Credit Card Skimming

LOS ANGELES ( — Crooks are getting more creative when it comes to stealing your identity and financial information.

Nicole McCormack of Tarzana said she has had her information "skimmed" seven or eight times in the past two years and has lost $10,000.

Even though insurance has covered those losses, it is still a major hassle.

"My card is immediately shut off. So there I am without my debit card for five to seven days," McCormack said. "The worst part of it though is I have that tied to so many things these days - whether it's automatic bill pay or renewal of a gym membership or whatever it is. So now, I have to go in every single time and redo all of that."

McCormack said she tries to pay with cash whenever she can now and believes this won't be her last fight with fraud. "I'm trying to be careful. But who knows where else it will happen next."

Economic Crimes Investigator Matthew LeFlore at the Orange County Sheriff's Department said skimming is "the least intrusive and quickest way to take somebody's money from their bank."

He said skimming can happen almost anywhere, but the most popular spots are at ATMs and gas stations.

"This is the home-manufactured skimming device you'd find inside of a gas station pump," LeFlore said as he showed a skimmer that looked like a belt. "This would plug into where the terminal would normally use it, and this plugs in at the other end at the pay-at-the-point system. And right there, you're done. That's it."

LeFlore said thieves often access the machines with stolen keys, and many have moved on to using Bluetooth technology to transmit information from the pump to a laptop or tablet hidden in a nearby vehicle.

To avoid becoming a victim, he advised before swiping, check for anything that looks out of place or damaged. And make sure the tamper sticker is intact.

"Your money is important to you. Take your time and make sure there's nothing suspicious before you give your money away," LeFlore said.

Fraud experts also suggest filling up at the pump closest to the cashier. Criminals are less likely to try and apply a skimmer right in front of the attendant.

If you have a story you think Jeff Vaughn should look into, email him at or contact him using #CBSLA.

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