Thieves working with staff to rob shoppers

December 23, 2020

Commanding officer at the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigative branch, Superintendent Anthony McLaughlin, says criminals have partnered with employees within institutions islandwide, targeting persons who use their bank cards at point of sale (POS) machines.

He said the criminals take machines to the institutions, and put them alongside the legitimate machines.

"So when you go shopping and you swipe the machine for payment, what they do is to swipe it in the fraudulent machine first," McLaughlin told THE STAR. "What that does is it reads off your information off the card, and they go ahead now and withdraw your money."

Fraud Squad police yesterday urged the public to be mindful of fraudulent activities involving the POS machines. According to the police's Corporate Communications Unit, there have been increased reports recently from business operators who are having their POS machines stolen. McLaughlin says there have also been reports from shoppers.

"Persons have used POS machines and when they get their bank statements, they realise that there have been some transactions on their credit card statements that they know nothing about," he said. "Some of them, when they check their balance on their debit card accounts, it is empty or significantly reduced, and they are unable to recall withdrawing so much money."

As many persons flock supermarkets and other establishments for Christmas shopping, McLaughlin believes many persons could be defrauded if they are not observant. He told THE STAR there are several 'red flags' to look for.

Send up a red flag

"Whenever they see more than one machine and they (workers) run the card and the machine gives a response like 'offline' or 'not able to process transaction', right away that should send up a red flag. Because the only thing that should prevent a machine from not working is if you have Internet problems," he explained. "That's usually the fraudulent machine that gives the error message. So customers are to look out for when their cards are being run or more than one machine within a business place."

The police are imploring business operators not to leave POS machines unattended, not to give POS machines to customers without paying attention, and to verify that the machine belongs to the business before using it.

The police also suggest customers sign up with their financial institutions to get alerts on transactions, check receipts after transactions, and to ensure the POS costs are correct. Shoppers are also advised to keep bank cards in their line of sight.

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