Watchful Regina Clerk Foils Card Skimming Scheme

7 May 2015

On Monday, March 16, three men from Montreal arrived in Regina, Alberta, ready to put into place a credit card fraud scheme that would have stolen the credit card numbers of unsuspecting Regina residents. However, they were stopped in their tracks when an attentive gas station clerk found their behavior suspicious and reported them to the police.

According to Regina police, Zakaria Bisset, 19, Justice Owusu Tajudeen, 20, and Abdelkadaer Dib, 21, attempted to buy prepaid credit cards using other prepaid cards at a Regina gas station. Since buying prepaid cards with more prepaid cards is highly unusual, the clerk became suspicious and the three men left without making any purchases.

The clerk later contacted police with details about the men’s vehicle, and they were able to trace it back to a rental agency, which agreed to notify them when the car was returned. At that point, the police took one of the men into custody, who then led them back to a hotel where the other two were staying. There, they found common implements used for manufacturing fraudulent credit cards, along with a card reader used for copying credit card data, otherwise known as a skimmer. This indicates that they may have planned to install the skimmer at a point-of-sale terminal at a business in Regina, allowing them to steal the credit card numbers of anyone who made purchases at that business.

According to Cpl. Trent Struble of the Regina Police Service’s Commercial Crime Unit, this type of scheme has been seen previously in Regina. Fraudsters distract clerks at small businesses like gas stations and convenience stores to allow their partners in crime to swap out the store’s legitimate pin pad with one containing a card skimmer. They then sit in the nearby area using Bluetooth to collect credit card numbers from the skimmer as customers scan their cards. These criminals tend to carry out the same crime in various cities across the country, leaving town before the police are alerted to their activities.

“It’s more or less free money for them,” Struble told the Regina Leader-Post.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid having your card information stolen by skimmers:

  • Beware of non-matching machine parts. If the card reader doesn’t seem to match the design of the rest of the ATM or point-of-sale machine, it could be a sign that a skimmer has been inserted. If there are other similar machines nearby, like other ATMs at a bank branch, check to see whether their card readers look the same as the one on your machine.
  • Don’t swipe your card multiple times. If your card usually works on the first try, but it’s taking more than two or three tries on a certain reader, it could be a sign that the reader has been tampered with. In this case, it’s better to just pay with cash.
  • Use the chip function rather than swiping the card. Debit card fraud has gone down dramatically since the introduction of EMV chip technology, which requires the chip to be present and the user to enter a PIN in order for the transaction to be processed. Card skimmers aren’t able to steal the information contained on EMV chips yet, so stay ahead of the game by making sure to use this method rather than the old swiping method.
  • To help protect against the potential effects of credit fraud, sign up for a credit monitoring service to be alerted to certain types of activity in your credit files.