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Parking Lots: The Next Threat to Your Credit Card?

By Lifestyle and Budget Credit.com

In the past few years there has been a lot of news about credit card thieves tampering with ATMs and gas pumps to install devices that steal consumers’ card data. It’s still an issue, exacerbated by people’s frequent use of ATMs and gas stations, but there’s another common place that’s recently emerged as a hotspot for credit card theft: parking lots.

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SP+, a parking facility service provider, announced Nov. 28 its payments system had been the subject of a malware attack, through which hackers obtained cardholders’ names, card numbers, expiration dates and security codes, the Chicago Tribune reported. SP+ named 13 parking facilities in the Chicago area may have been affected, though the company operates parking structures across the country.

Cyberattacks on payment systems aren’t the only threat. In New York, seven people were indicted Dec. 3 in a credit card theft scheme that apparently used skimming machines to steal credit card data from a Manhattan parking garage. The card data was then used to make fake cards and purchase electronics, CBS reported.

Parking garages get a lot of traffic at this time of year, when people are out and about preparing for the holidays and shopping for gifts. That makes them prime targets for credit card thieves. Carrying cash for parking is always a safe strategy — some garages and lots don’t accept cards anyway — but the threat of theft shouldn’t keep you from using your preferred method of payment.

Data breaches are common, and your card data is constantly at risk of being stolen, which is why it’s so important to monitor your accounts and credit scores for signs of fraud. It’s a good habit to practice, especially around the holidays. Make it a priority to check your card activity online, using your bank’s mobile app or through transaction alerts, which you can likely set up for free. Frequently reviewing your transactions makes it easier to spot fraud and stop it before damage worsens. You should also watch your credit scores for a sudden drop, which would likely happen if someone steals your data and runs up a credit card balance in your name. You can get two of your scores for free, with updates every 30 days, on Credit.com.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Christine DiGangi covers personal finance for Credit.com. Previously, she managed communications for the Society of Professional Journalists, served as a copy editor of The New York Times News Service and worked as a reporter for the Oregonian and the News & Record.