TapCard Skimming

Yesterday I had my credit card skimmed in a luxury goods shop in Cabot Circus. Credit card skimming is the process used by dodgy waiters and the like to steal the details off your card for use on the black market. It is often done using a small device concealed in the palm of their hand which reads the mag stripe while walking back to the till. This scam is, in fact, dying out as there are much easier ways for the criminals to get numbers in bulk, but it still used by small time crooks.

So, what happened in the shop? They had a skimmer attached to the front of the till – I should point out here that the action of the assistant was not criminal and, I will presume that the retail chain is not either. But they are foolish. Their system requires the credit card number before it will print a receipts. The PDQ chip-and-pin terminal they use for payment is not connected to the till system, and for good reason. They have no legitimate reason to collect and store the credit card numbers. In fact, I can’t imagine what they do with them. If there is a query over the payment (if the card subsequently turns out to be stolen for instance) then the merchant account provider, the people who process the transaction, have all the information necessary to pursue the case.

Larger retailers like supermarkets do have their systems connected together. They are operating as their own merchant provider and communicate directly with the credit card companies but they are then required to meet much more stringent security requirements on their whole system.

So if you see this happening – complain. I only noticed because the mag stripe on my card is faulty (it “accidentally” got too close to a strong magnet) and they had to type the number in by hand. It is also worth while noting the three digit number on the back of your card and then covering it up with a sticker. That will hinder online fraud.

I will report back here if the managing director of the chain concerned replies.

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