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Thieves Don Repair Uniforms To Install Card Swipe Skimmers

Written by Evan Schuman
August 21st, 2008

A gang of data thieves in Ireland has well learned the lesson that the best place to hide is in plain sight. The group hit a large number of retailers throughout Ireland and grabbed more than 20,000 payment cards by placing skimmers on card-swipes by wearing what appeared to be maintenance uniforms and saying that they were performing bank repairs.

"The criminals have been going into shops claiming to be engineers working on the terminals," Una Dillon, head of card services at the Irish Payment Services Organization Staff was quoted as telling The Irish Examiner. "Staff are used to their bank officials coming to update terminals so unfortunately they have been able to do that."

Dillon said that police have taken possession of "a lot of the devices" along with closed-circuit video footage. "We have a list of all the card numbers that have been used. They have either been blocked or restrictions put on those cards," she said. "With the devices recovered, it may just be that the cards were only saved and the criminals did not have a chance to get hold of the card numbers."

Not so lucky were a group of some 16 restaurateurs in Louisiana and Mississippi, whose POS systems were hit in a wireless attack not dissimilar from ones that hit TJX, OfficeMax, Barnes & Noble, BJ’s Wholesale Club and the Sports Authority.

The hungry hackers limited their attack to those 16 restaurants in those two states before trying to sell them for between $1 and $100 each, U.S. Secret Service Agent Sean Connor told the Associated Press.

Among all retailers, restaurants have the best reputation for having the weakest security, thereby attracting thieves looking for soft targets.


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Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

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