How The Stop & Shop Thieves Stole Credit Card Info From Right Under The Cashier's Nose

Wondering how the Stop & Shop thieves stole credit card information from right under the cashier’s nose? They built their own working card readers and installed them while the Stop & Shop employees were distracted. Pretty clever, but pretty dangerous for consumers. From the Wall Street Journal:

In the Stop & Shop case, police say that late at night — after shopping crowds had thinned and the staff was whittled to a skeletal crew — four young men entered several stores in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, distracted employees and replaced several card-swiping machines with devices that looked similar. The thieves’ systems, however, housed mini circuit boards that recorded customers’ data and PINs.

A few days later, the suspects retrieved the systems. Counterfeit debit cards were quickly made using the collected financial data and disseminated, along with the related PINs, on the black market. Within days, more than $100,000 was withdrawn from ATMs as far away as California

“The unique thing about the circuit boards was that the transactions still went through” to the card processor, says Thomas Powers, head of the U.S. Secret Service in Providence. As a result, neither the stores nor the customers knew anything was amiss until the banks notified customers of what appeared to be unauthorized withdrawals from their accounts.

It appears that the suspects may have gotten away with similar skimming capers in several other cities, including Philadelphia, Miami, Las Vegas and Richmond, Va., police say. “They all have the same kind of modus operandi attacking the POS system,” says Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch.

There’s not a lot that a consumer can do to protect themselves from this type of fraud…except to closely monitor their banking statements.

Debit cards are more vulnerable specifically because they have less monitoring. Be careful out there. —MEGHANN MARCO

Skimming Devices Target Debit-Card Readers [WSJ]