Major Credit Card Skimming Operation Uncovered in Calgary

9 June 2015

Credit card skimming is one of the ways that criminals are able to obtain large amounts of financial information without much effort. All it takes is installing a fake card reader device in public places where hundreds of people scan their cards, like gas station terminals, ATMs and point-of-sale systems in retail stores.

Just recently, a major card skimming operation was shut down by the Calgary Police after reports that skimming devices had been found on gas pumps at several gas stations in the city. When police carried out search warrants on two homes, they found “a fully functioning credit card and identification counterfeiting lab,” according to CTV News, along with about $150,000 worth of high-end goods. These included clothing and accessories from Burberry, Nordstrom, Prada and Gucci, along with Apple and GoPro gear.

Two men were arrested for their involvement in the scheme. Denys Ranyuk, 32, and Dimitri Barbu, 33, have been charged with 39 counts of various crimes, including mischief to property, mischief to data, possessing an instrument of forgery, possessing credit card data and breach of recognizance.

According to Staff Sergeant Kristie Verheul of the Calgary Police’s Economic Crimes Unit, the scheme was highly sophisticated, with homemade card skimmers serving as the basis for the whole operation.
“This is very, very organized. Making the skimmers was part of this group’s role. Placing the skimmers, again, taking those off, which in turn was able to get them credit card data. From there, taking that data and putting it onto cards and then passing that off and going out, and as you see, getting all of the merchandise bought fraudulently on the fraudulent credit cards,” Verheul explained to CTV News.

From there, the group would sell the high-end merchandise online using sites like Kijiji and eBay. Verheul believes that the money they acquired in these sales was then laundered to be sent overseas.
“Our suspicion with this group and the activity we’re seeing here is consistent with organized crime,” she said.

According to the police, no one knows how long the skimmers have been in place, and the criminals would have been able to gain access to more than 500 credit card numbers every month using them. A list of 38 addresses in Calgary was also found at one of the homes and is thought to be a record of all the places the skimmers were installed, although nothing is certain at the moment.

Police are encouraging Calgary residents who have pumped gas using a credit card recently to check their accounts and to watch for any strange activity. They are also urging caution when using credit cards at gas stations and encourage anyone who does so to try jiggling the card around in the reader before agreeing to pay. If the reader seems loose, it’s a sign that it may have been tampered with. Another sign to look out for is a reader that’s a different color or made from a different material than the rest of the pump.

Tracking your finances after you've been exposed to potential credit card fraud or identity theft is a good place to start, You can also help protect yourself by signing up for a credit monitoring service to help detect certain changes in your credit file that could be indicative of fraud.