Consumers and retailers still at risk from rogue employees and surprisingly organized criminal groups

Personal information stolen through the Internet remains a significant threat, but “real world” physical data theft when consumers increasingly use their debit and credit cards in public must be addressed, experts note.

Credit and debit card skimming, which traditionally involves attaching a reader to a PIN pad or similar device, has caused retailers and consumers trouble in the past.  Most recently, a major grocery store chain discovered a number of compromised self-checkout credit/debit card readers that were taken care of as quickly as possible, according to the store.

Save Mart, parent company of Lucky grocery stores, recently discovered credit/debit card readers in 20 San Francisco Bay Area grocery stores.  Specifically, the readers were found only in self-checkout lines, and Save Mart reportedly moved quickly to ensure offending scanners were taken offline.

Here is what Save Mart had to say:  "As a precaution, we recommend our customers who used a self check-out lane in the affected stores verify and monitor all credit/debit accounts with their financial institution to ensure everything is in order. For more information, we suggest you visit the Web site of the California Office of Privacy Protection or the Federal Trade Commission."

Lucky repaired all machines that were tampered with, and double checked all self-checkout credit card/debit card scanners in its 234 stores.  The store also apologized for "any inconvenience or concern" that was generated after this announcement was recently made public, and promised to ensure customers are informed of major issues.

US lawmakers continue to deal with an increase in credit card theft that ranges from tampered with credit card readers, spyware used on the Internet, and sophisticated theft by criminal gangs. 

There is a new threat of RFID card skimming, which involves criminals using electronic recorders able to wirelessly read the magnetic strips on bank cards.  These newer methods of theft pose problems for misinformed consumers and a court system unable to handle drastic changes necessary for evolving forms of crime and identity theft. 

Also of grave concern is the overall complexity of some criminal groups currently stealing credit card information from consumers.  For example, 28 people were recently indicted for their part in a credit card theft ring, in which seven waiters used skimmers to help steal information from high-limit credit cards -- and later created counterfeit IDs and credit cards to make purchases at designer stores across the east coast.

The battle against credit card skimming will continue into 2012, with grocery stores, gas stations, and consumer electronics retailers on the lookout for devices that have been tampered with.  Security experts warn consumers to remain vigilant when they use their credit card, along with checking bank statements online and when they arrive in the mail.

Sources: NY Times, SaveMart

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