The scam is not within the reach of the first scammer – this is probably why it is not very widespread at the moment – but it is terribly effective. Several Cannes restaurateurs have been victims of this in recent weeks. Individuals, pretending to be customers, manage to swap payment terminals by credit card. As a result, thousands of euros lost, well not for everyone…
The scam is based on a simple standard exchange of the payment terminal
The concept of this scam is quite simple on paper: steal the establishment’s payment terminal (the device on which customers enter their codes) and replace it with another that is identical in all respects, except for the SIM card which will payment to scammers’ accounts.
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This implies a minimum of organization and knowledge on the part of the counterfeiters who must in particular benefit from a range of sufficiently wide pirate terminals to be able to adapt to the different models used by restaurateurs. For the scam to work, it is indeed imperative that the terminals are exactly the same.
Succeed in diverting the waiters’ attention
The scam also requires a certain “know-how” in situation. Switching a payment terminal without being detected by staff and customers requires a good dose of composure. Most of the time, the fraudulent terminal is hidden in a fanny pack or under a T-shirt.
Jean Pierre Guillory is the manager of Morrison’s in Cannes. Himself a victim of the scam, he learned to decipher the modus operandi of the scammer(s). “He comes with this machine in his bag, describes the manager of Morrison’s, a TPE in his hand. He asks to pay by credit card. When we provide him with our credit card machine, he takes advantage of a moment of inadvertence from the bartender and makes a standard exchange. He leaves us his machine with his SIM card and he leaves with our machine. From there, all credit cards are credited to his account.”, he confides to BFMTV.
The scam is undetectable in the short term
What makes the scam devilishly effective is that it is not immediately visible. Once the hacker terminal is in place, it can take several days or even weeks for restaurant owners to notice. On a daily basis, everything is normal, customers pay and transactions are approved.
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It is only by making the accounts that the merchants note the delta between the payments made and the sums actually credited to the account at their establishment.
“I was convinced that it was a technical problem, that it was a bad connection problem. I never would have imagined this kind of scam”confides another victim to France 3 Provence-Alpes Côte d’Azur.
The device does suffer from a flaw but it easily goes unnoticed: the establishment’s sign does not appear on the credit card ticket given to the customer. Problem: Few customers read these tickets, most end up crumpled in trouser pockets.
The parade: personalizing payment terminals
In Cannes, abused merchants are invited to file a complaint. At least one forger would have been identified.
According to Geeko, insurance does not cover this type of abuse, so victims cannot claim compensation. As a preventive measure, the national police invite merchants to personalize their payment terminals using drawings or stickers, so as to complicate the task of counterfeiters.