Winnipeg police are warning merchants to keep PIN pads out of sight until they’re used by a customer after three Quebec men were arrested for switching legitimate pads with one of their own.
Det. Trevor Thompson, of the Winnipeg police commercial crime unit, also suggested people check their credit card and bank statements for unauthorized withdrawals and charges. PIN numbers should also be changed on a regular basis, he added.
Police seized four stolen PIN pads plus electronic equipment from three men at the Winnipeg airport on Nov. 8.
On Monday, Jonathan Didier Stainfil, 25, Mohamed Ali Marocchi, 22, and Alan Walter Dana, 21, all from Quebec, were charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, possession of instruments for use in forging credit cards, possession of property obtained by crime, theft under $5,000 and identity theft.
Police became aware of the pad tampering on Oct. 31 when staff at a Regent Avenue business noticed their pad was not working properly and contacted police. The pad was found to be a dummy machine which thieves had inserted while they tampered with the real pad.
Tampering with PIN pads has exploded in the past two years, Thompson said.
“It was almost unheard of two years ago. Last year merchants lost almost $2 million,” he said.
“They usually target places where the PIN pad is in plain sight and usually make the switch during off hours when the pad is not being used as much,” Thompson said. “The switch takes about 10 seconds, the tampering may take up an hour.”
When the tampered pad is put back, ID thieves are able to capture the pin and all the information stored on the magnetic stripe on the back of the card, he explained. The info is stored in a computer until it can be downloaded on a counterfeit card.
“Once the switch is made, there is no way to tell if the pad has been tampered with,” Thompson said.
Police expect to receive more reports of tampering in the next while since ID thieves are at the busiest at this time of year.
“The culprits tend to be from out of town and move quickly from city-to-city,” Thompson said.
By BOB HOLLIDAY