'Skimming' Too Easy with New Technologies

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Skimming credit and debit card cardholder information has become an easy way for criminals to steal identities, thanks to new technologies being offered via the Internet.

A Tunisian national was recently arrested in Pennsylvania after using a hand-held skimming device he purchased over the web to steal information from customers of the bar/restaurant where he worked in Philadelphia.

Using the palm-sized device, the man took information off the stripes of legitimate customers. He then used a home computer and another device purchased by Internet to transfer the data onto blank cards, creating "clones" that were then used in 47 financial institutions, victimizing 271 people.

The United States is not the only country suffering from the rise in skimming tools. According to law enforcement officials in Canada, debit card counterfeiting is one of the fastest growing crimes in that country, aided by criminals who are developing and taking advantage of new skimming technologies.

The PhoneBuster National Call Centre, which is operated by the Ontario Provincial Police, said it received more than 7,600 identity theft complaints in 2002, with reported losses reaching more then $8.5 million. In the first four months of 2003, that centre received 2,200 complaints with losses at well over $5 million.

One of the most common schemes in Canada, according to Ontario police, is for a criminal to bribe a retail clerk $100 to $1,000 to exchange a legitimate point-of-sale terminal with a skimming device. The devices then steal identity information from magnetic stripes, which is later downloaded into electronic readers that can be purchased off the Internet. In cases where a criminal ring is involved, the identity information that is stolen is sent via email or the Internet to other countries, where fraudulent cards are made and used.




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