By Victor Searcy
A Florida waitress found a way to get back at mean customers: She used a skimmer to steal their credit card information, make new cards and rack up thousands of dollars in charges at Radio Shack and Walmart—all on their dime.
But revenge is a dish best served cold, and the young Mugs N Jugs server apparently was as successful at crime as she was waiting on customers at the sports bar and grill. She and her two accomplices were arrested on multiple charges, including the fraudulent use of a credit card.
The 25-year-old told authorities she targeted customers who she thought treated her poorly by running her around. “Maybe she’s scared of a hard day’s work,” a detective told a news station. The feeling was mutual from Mugs N Jugs customers. “She couldn’t look you in the face when she waited on you. She didn’t greet you. She took a long time to come back to the table. She didn’t say thank you,” one customer said.
Skimming, the theft of credit card data, is so commonplace that one in five consumers has been a victim, according to Javelin Strategy & Research. The crime is typically an inside job committed by a dishonest employee most commonly at restaurants and bars where the perpetrator has access to a customer’s card and is out of view for a period of time. But it also frequently occurs at ATMs.
Thieves use skimmers, devices that are hand-held or placed over ATM card-reader slots to capture data embedded on the magnetic strip. Skimmers can store information for hundreds of cards. Later, fraudsters pick up the device and download the information onto their computers to create fake cards. Then, they can go to ATMs to withdraw thousands of dollars from victim’s accounts.
Scammers also mount cameras near ATMs to record Personal Identification Numbers (PINs), or to install on overlay in the keypad to get the personal information.
Consumers can protect themselves by following these tips:
- Keep an eye on your card when it’s in the hands of others. It may be hard to do, but watch the clerk or server using your debit/credit cards to ring up purchases.
- Be picky about the ATMs you use. Pick a machine that’s indoors or near a public area. Use familiar ATMs as much as possible. If you travel, stick to ATMs at a bank branch. Skip ATMs with unusual signage, such as instructions to enter your PIN more than once to complete a transaction.
- Use the credit card option. Use cash or credit cards when possible. If you must use a debit card, opt to have it processed as a credit-card transaction instead of typing in your PIN.
- Protect your PIN. Cover the keyboard as you enter your PIN to prevent a passerby or a secrete camera from capturing it.
If you detect fraudulent charges on your debit or credit card account, and the card is still in your wallet, chances are your account has been skimmed.
Check with your bank or insurance company to see if you receive our identity theft and fraud and credit monitoring services.
Victor Searcy, Identity Theft 911‘s Director of Fraud Operations, has more than 20 years of experience managing fraud operations in the banking industry. His areas of expertise include fraud detection, claims, investigations and recovery functions.