How I Caught a Card Thief

Ever wonder how your card gets swiped?

It all started at the Burger King drive through near my house.  My son and I trekked out to get dinner.

Bear in mind that I'm a full-time paranoid - I watch what people do and I learn by observation.  We'd already had our cards stolen by different means - trusting a waiter at a cheap restaurant near a dodgy side of town - only to later be asked by our bank if we were trying to buy tires and a color TV at a Target in Texas.  And one other time it was some crap stuffed into an online order done at Sherries Berries.  Thank god our bank is good with this stuff 1st Bank of Colorado gets high marks for fraud detection and response.

The gal at the register had taken our order.  I drove to the window to pay, and once I handed her my credit card, I watched closely as she swiped it with her right hand, then the receipt printed on the printer next to the register, she got the receipt with her left hand, and then (my card in her right hand, now out of view), receipt in her left hand, she tediously read my order back to me to verify - like anything was going to change now that payment was processed.  The entire time she's doing this, my card is out of sight in her right hand, her right arm down at her side - and as she's reading my order to me, her right arm is moving a little.

Once she's done "verifying" my order, she hands me the receipt, with the card under - but facing her - and I think to myself - boy that was weird.

Then the kicker happened - she walked back towards the grill/fry station in order to get our order, and she whipped out her cell phone and sent a quick text message - and it was a quick one too because it looked like she typed only 3 digits and hit send.

That's when it clicked.  That bitch.

I then finished out the order, checked all the food - made sure we had the ketchup and straws (none of that dastardly catsup here!) and then I asked to speak with the manager, all smiles.

I then explained all this to her, and let me tell you - my son had no clue, and his eyes went wide as his brow went up - and that pretty much matched the expression on the face of the manager - the look of "oh shit" on the bitch-thief's face was however classic - I'd seen it before..

The last few times I'd seen this picture, I was speeding in the backwater areas of Princeton where I grew up - you learn to slow down fast out there or you slam into them.

Now, in case you're part of the uninitiated in the world of card theft, something you should know - that magnetic stripe on your cards holds a LOT of data.  It's also encoded in such a way that it can be recovered - the stripe has "error correction" in it to some extent.  But your PIN is not on that stripe.  Neither are the extra 3 digits on the back of the card next to your signature.  Those must be read.  As for stealing that magnetic stripe, there are things for sale in the world called magnetic stripe readers.  You can buy them on eBay here.

This technology is something else - one of these little things can record the contents of a card - all except those 3 digits on the back - and these cost between $150 and $300.  They're battery powered and can steal up to 2000 cards at a time.  They also are password protected, if caught, what the person has stolen may not be recoverable without getting their password from them.  Note that this particular unit is not much larger than a large cigarette lighter.

This gal did get hit. No skidmarks. No body damage to my car. I didn't stick around to see what the carcass looked like either, but I did see a fraud report on that corner the following week on my crimewatch app...

Cheers!  Be diligent folks!


Peter Roelandts said…

Your site is down, can you fix it?

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