June 15, 2024

SECURITY specialists are cautioning individuals to steer clear of a specific payment method at self-service machines and ATMs due to cybercriminals recording transactions as part of a major card fraud scheme. 

Recently, there has been an uptick in card skimming scams that can pilfer a person’s credit card details the moment they use it for payments. 

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Rising incidences of credit card skimming scams are a cause for concern, experts sayCredit: Harris County CourtThis week, Perla Miclescu, 25, and Rafael Rafaila, 20, were detained by the Baytown, Texas police on charges associated with a card skimming scam

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This week, Perla Miclescu, 25, and Rafael Rafaila, 20, were detained by the Baytown, Texas police on charges associated with a card skimming scamCredit: Harris County CourtSecurity specialist Jeff Roberts advises shoppers to tap-and-pay to safeguard against such scams

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Security specialist Jeff Roberts advises shoppers to tap-and-pay to safeguard against such scamsCredit: Fox 26

Card skimmers are small devices that can be attached to card-reading machines such as self-service kiosks, ATMs, and petrol station pumps. 

These skimmers often resemble the original card-insert or keypad that is part of the card-reading equipment. 

However, the moment a shopper inserts their card, the skimmer duplicates the card’s PIN and number.

This instant access to banking details usually leaves the victims vulnerable and at the mercy of the fraudsters.

Delve Further into Card Skimmers

Scammers frequently set up an accompanying video camera in the vicinity to capture the transaction and the security codes entered. 

Earlier this week, the Baytown, Texas police – approximately half an hour away from Houston – apprehended Perla Miclescu, 25, and Rafael Rafaila, 20, on multiple charges related to a card skimming scam. 

According to Harris County court documents procured by the local Fox affiliate KRIV, Miclescu and Rafaila were allegedly in possession of a skimming device and “overlay pinhole cameras.” 

These documents reportedly indicate they also had in their possession 24 re-encoded credit cards. 

Miclescu and Rafaila have separate warrants for separate fraud-related charges along with their skimming related charges.

Reportedly, Miclescu has a warrant related to a 2019 indictment in Colorado County, Texas for allegedly participating in a robbery with three other individuals.

BEWARE OF SCAMS! Card-data stealing apparatus discovered at 7-Eleven – urgent alert issued after multiple branches were targeted_WUSAThe records indicate that Miclescu was released on bail but failed to appear in court.

Reportedly, Rafaila has an outstanding warrant in Indiana related to possession of a card-skimming device.

Miclescu reportedly has Romanian citizenship.

Both defendants were incarcerated at the Harris County jail and now face deportation proceedings.

Jeff Roberts, Captain of Internal Operations at the Texas Financial Crimes Intelligence Center, has warned about the perils of this kind of alleged operation. 

They’re actually recording the whole transaction.

Jeff RobertsCaptain of Internal Operations for the Texas Financial Crimes Intelligence Center

“They are installing these skimmers deep inside the card reader, which we term as deep Insert skimmers,” he informed KRIV. 

“They use a camouflaged camera device that looks like original hardware – which captures when the pin number is entered. 

“So, they’re in fact recording the entire transaction.” 

Rather than inserting the credit card into the card-reading machine, Roberts urged individuals to opt for the tap to pay method. 

He pointed out that the skimming scam works by accessing the magnetic strip on a credit card to pilfer sensitive banking data. 

What is a skimmer device?

Skimmer devices are fraudulent tools engineered to filch sensitive data from credit or debit cards during transactions.

  • Think of a skimmer apparatus as a covert thief lurking on ATMs or card machines.
  • Its purpose is to clandestinely pilfer your credit or debit card specifics when you undertake a transaction.
  • These devices are akin to tiny undercover agents that can duplicate your card information, including the card number and PIN, unbeknownst to you.
  • Skimmers can cleverly masquerade to resemble the original card reader, making them difficult to identify.
  • Armed with your data, malefactors can create counterfeit cards or make unauthorized purchases, leading to significant hassles and stress.
  • It’s crucial to always exercise caution and check for anything unusual on card machines before using them to protect oneself from such furtive devices.

Eschewing a physical card entirely and adopting Apple Pay or Google Pay on a mobile device is often the most secure option, according to Roberts. 

“Those types of transactions are extremely safe and, as things stand, these cannot be skimmed, as you’re not swiping into the terminal,” Roberts noted. 

In the past couple of years, hundreds of card-skimming devices have targeted thousands of Texas residents. 

This January, the Texas Financial Crimes Intelligence Center disclosed that the organization had retrieved 445 card skimming devices and 5,574 falsified credit cards. 

The agency recognised their efforts as saving $171.5 million in potential losses in Texas.