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Skimmers Help Thieves Collect Credit Card Information

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LONGMONT, Colo. (CBS4)- Suspects have already stolen credit card numbers from hundreds of people in Longmont and others in at least eight states. Now the Secret Service is trying to catch them. Credit card fraud is a multi-billion dollar business.

At East Moon Asian Bistro in Longmont, the owner wants customers to keep coming back for more than just the food.

Unbeknownst to Kenny Chiang, a year before he bought the East Moon Asian Bistro, the credit card numbers of 200 customers were stolen by three people who offered to work for tips only.

One victim was Steven Joseph.

“I got a call from American Express asking me if I spent $2,300 at a best buy in California, and obviously I said no,” said Joseph.

The three waiters used a credit card skimmer. A credit card skimmer fits in the palm of your hand and when the server is out of sight he scans your card. All the information on the card’s magnetic strip is recorded.

“This is perfect. This is almost – I mean it’s terrible, it’s an uncatchable crime,” said Cary Johnson, a fraud expert with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office.

Johnson said, “You give your credit card. All I need is the time it takes to slide the card, to get all the information off the magnet strip. I have it.”

The skimmers are easy to buy. CBS4 found them on eBay for well under a $100. They’re legal to own but not legal to use for identity theft.

“It’s actually a replacement part for those machines that we use like in the supermarket where you swipe your own cards,” said Johnson.

The skimmer will hold information from 300 credit cards, and it can take up to 100,000 swipes before it wears out. Once the crooks have about a dozen credit cards, they go online and trade the numbers with other crooks across the country.

“I’m going to plead with folks to make a life habit change,” said Johnson.

Cary Johnson recommends never letting your credit card out of sight. At restaurants, he pays in cash.

That is, unless he one day decides to dine at the East Moon Asian Bistro in Longmont. The owner, Kenny Chiang, invested in table service credit card machines.

“Once it was explained to me, it made perfect sense because I never have to give my credit card and have it go out of my sight,” said Steven Joseph, a victim of credit card fraud.

Chiang can’t do anything about the 200 customers that had their credit cards stolen before he owned the place, but he can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“We want customer to feel comfortable to come here,” said Chiang.

If you have fraudulent charges on your credit card statement, you have 60 days to contact the credit card company. On day 61, those charges legitimately belong to the customer.

After contacting the credit card company, you need to file a police report, either where the crime happened or where you live. That police report is a form of protection showing you are a victim of identity theft. If the credit card company comes back, you have proof.

Cary Johnson said this type of credit card fraud typically happens at restaurants, and it’s mostly the national restaurant chains many of us frequent.

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