Thieves targeting vending machines and kiosks that accept credit cards, along with ATMs, are becoming increasingly brazen and technologically sophisticated. Devices called "skimmers" are now providing high-tech crooks access to both credit card numbers and ready cash. Even worse, it is a global criminal enterprise, making detection and prosecution more difficult.
While the U.S. Postal Service is remaining quiet about the alleged incidents, according to news reports, authorities found skimmers on self-service postage stamp venders in at least 13 states. They are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Virginia. The skimming devices, which were placed over the legitimate card readers, captured the account numbers and PINs for debit cards.
The crime spree also appears to be international. Police in Macau, a Chinese territory 40 miles from Hong Kong, recently arrested two Ukrainian nationals suspected of taking part in a skimming scheme targeting bank ATMs. According to local new reports and information released by local authorities, the Judiciary Police busted the two men who stole bankcard data and passwords to create forged cards that were then used to withdraw funds as far away as Thailand and Russia.
The scheme, which took place between March and April, employed a small device inserted into the card slot and attached to a laptop. As a result, the thieves were able to reprogram the ATM to remember card numbers and PIN codes they could then retrieve at a later date. The thieves claimed they received approximately 2,000 euro (about $2,700) every time they successfully skimmed cards in Macau. It is suspected they successfully skimmed more than 60 cards in the scam.
The arrests in Macau follow the apprehension of five Malaysian nationals in Thailand in another skimming scheme.
Back in the U.S., authorities around the country have been on alert about skimmers. Within the past year, the devices have been found on gas station pumps across the country, including South Florida, Kentucky and Texas. On May 29, two Romanian nationals, Dorin Husa and Niculae Petre, got a year in jail for installing skimmers on ticket kiosks for the Long Island Railroad. The two were sentenced days following the punishment of their compatriot, Valer Zaharia, who received a six-year jail term. Authorities are hunting for another member of the gang, Cezar Nastasa, who is said to have fled the country.