Crime Stoppers


Cyber criminals want to compromise your business. It’s up to you to stop them

For most, it takes more than a few years to amass savings; but for professional fraudsters, it may only take a few minutes to snatch your personal information and compromise your financial security.

In October, Winnipeg police investigated allegations of debit card fraud at local McDonald’s restaurant outlets — with some of the criminal activity stretching as far as Quebec. Similarly, between March and May 2009, 1,250 debit cards were skimmed at a Subway sandwich store in Brantford, Ont.

Skimming involves copying electronic data from debit or credit cards, via devices such as readers and secret cameras and using the information to make fake cards. According to Interac, in 2008 alone, $104.5 million was reimbursed to victims of debit fraud in Canada. Many times, consumers don’t even realize they’ve been robbed.

Cyber crime can occur anywhere; however, places like quick-service eateries, restaurants and bars are often popular targets. Unfortunately, when the smallest amount of point-of-sale (POS) fraud information is leaked to the public through the media, it can have adverse effects on both a business and a brand. That’s why employing new card-security technologies and understanding fraud prevention techniques should be on the top of any restaurateurs’ to-do list.

“It doesn’t take a lot of time to skim a card; all you need to do is just have another reader [to] swipe it through,” says Avner Levin, director of the Privacy and Cyber Crime Institute at Toronto’s Ryerson University. “These things can be bought. It’s not a very sophisticated operation and, in a lot of places, like restaurants, there is very little monitoring going on.”

Tina Romano, public relations manager for Interac in Toronto, says Canadians are among the highest users of debit cards in the world, second only to Sweden. That makes Canada a prime target for cyber crime. “We are seeing a rising trend,” she says of this type of fraud, adding that it happens most often in busy places, where cashiers are easily distracted.

In order to help deter thieves from skimming precious consumer information, debit and credit cards are now being designed with chip technology. “It will make it much more difficult to produce counterfeit cards,” Romano  says.

The new chip cards require users to keep them embedded in a wireless POS machine while paying, and cards no longer travel out of sight. At this point, a code is entered instead of a traditional signature, further improving security. Romano says chip cards and chip-reading terminals will become more prevalent across Canada throughout 2010.

Merchants must also carefully assess how they process transactions to truly protect their establishment from POS fraud. “They have a duty to the public…to not allow information that they gather in any way to be shared,” says Bruce Cran, president of the Ottawa-based Consumers’ Association of Canada. “They should be doing whatever it takes to secure their credit card and debit card machines. Maybe it’s somebody watching it 24-hours a day, or maybe it’s locking it up or keeping it under a desk. But it should never be left alone, where it could be taken and replaced.”

Still, Cran insists that when it comes to this type of fraud in Canada, the future is looking friendlier. “Our credit-card and debit-card systems are heading towards much more solid protection than they’ve ever had in the past,” says Cran. “But I keep saying to merchants, you must treat that machine like a block of gold.”

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Kostuch Media covers the dynamic and ever-evolving hospitality industry by delivering a diverse array of media products for today’s sophisticated marketers. Our magazines deliver extensive signature reports and award-winning editorial, reflecting a continued commitment to provide the foodservice and hospitality industry with in-depth, quality reporting.

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