Restaurants May Use Portable Credit Card Readers To Prevent Identity Theft

Portable credit card readers have the potential to make your dining experience safer and faster. The portable readers make it unnecessary for customers to hand over their credit cards, preventing waiters from stealing personal information with skimming devices. Up to 70% of skimming scams take place in restaurants.

Pay-at-the-table systems are popular in Europe and other parts of the world, but they haven’t yet caught on in the U.S., largely because equipment makers have been unable to point to a reason restaurateurs should invest in the gear.

Manufacturers now see an opportunity. A rise in the number of “skimming” scams in which waiters use hand-held computers to steal customers’ credit card information and sell it is creating a sense of urgency. So is a push by managers to speed the flow of diners during peak hours.

The portable systems also save customers the trouble of calculating a tip by adding an option to automatically add 20% to the bill. We like the idea, but some find the experience underwhelming:

Wayne Smith and two friends had just scarfed down three steaks and were waiting for the $191 bill when his waiter plopped down the machine. He scanned his card, touched the square denoting a 20% tip and waited for his receipt.

“I feel a little like I’m at Wal-Mart,” Smith said.

Plastic may be next on the plate [AP]