It’s a startling discovery out of Ohio: Confirmation from a major supermarket chain that credit-card skimmers were embedded inside PIN pads at several of its stores.
According to WOIO-TV in Cleveland, Giant Eagle, the Midwest-based grocer, announced Wednesday that four of its stores had been targeted in two Ohio metropolitan areas.
Three of the stores were in the Columbus area — one on N. High Street in Columbus itself, the others on Biddulph Road in nearby Brooklyn and on Powell Road in Powell.
Two of the stores were in the Cleveland area, meanwhile: One on Snow Road in Parma, the other on Mayfield Road in South Euclid.
The first skimmer — which steals card information and potentially your PIN number — was found Nov. 3 at the Powell store, according to WBNS-TV.
The chain then ordered the PIN pads in all of its other stores to be inspected. According to the police blotter on Cleveland.com, the Parma skimmer was detected days later.
“On Nov. 8, police were dispatched to Giant Eagle after an employee made a startling discovering at the Snow Road store,” the blotter read. “An arriving officer talked to the caller, who said a card skimmer had been installed at a register.
“There are no suspects. Police are investigating.”
Check your bank account if you shop at Giant Eagle. https://t.co/8kwwU6NUkh
— Cleveland 19 News (@cleveland19news) January 4, 2024
Thankfully, the damage might have been mitigated by the fact that the skimmers, as they were installed, could only have stolen information from customers who swiped their card, Giant Eagle said.
Customers who tapped their card or inserted the chip — which constitutes the majority of customers, according to the chain — should be safe. Furthermore, the chain said that it had notified all affected bank and credit card providers.
However, the exact number of customers affected was unclear. Also unclear was whether there were any suspects or leads in the attempted credit card data theft.
Card skimming isn’t a new thing, sadly. In April of 2022, a Texas woman named Nyshje Rattler became a TikTok sensation after exposing the skimmers at a local 7-Eleven which had left her bank account “wiped clean.”
@obsessedwithny You’re not going to jail you’re going to PRISONNN #fyp #scammed ♬ Jersey anniversary – Malcolm B
“The way that you can tell” that there was a skimmer on the machine, Rattler told NBC News, “is that the machine should be flat on the side.”
“There should be no gaps. So I started comparing the two and the one to the right, it had a gap.”
That led to her viral video — and a legendary PSA:
Sadly, it’s not as easy as that these days, said Alex Hamerstone, an advisory solutions director and security expert at TrustedSec.
“The newer ones actually go inside the slot, so they’re almost impossible to see,” Hamerstone told WOIO. “It would be really difficult for anyone to detect these.”
“In the old days you used to be able to make credit cards using VCR tape and cardboard, right, you could encode the credit card right onto the VCR tape,” Hamerstone noted. “It’s not complicated, especially with the old magnetic strips.”
As for how criminals get the devices? “There are actually people that will sell them to you or rent them to you for a share of the data that you can collect, Hamerstone said “So there’s kind of a whole industry around them.”
What to do if you’re affected? “The best advice I can give anyone — credit cards, obviously read your cardholder agreement, but they have a lot more protections than a debit card, it’s just the way it is,” Hamerstone said.
“Even if you are able to get your money back from a debit card — which you oftentimes are with fraud — if you think about the average consumer, the average person, if you lost all the money in your checking account for two or three weeks, it’s a huge problem,” he noted. “It would cause a lot of people issues. Whereas if there’s fraudulent charges on your credit card, you just dispute them.”
Obviously, the advice for consumers is clear: Watch out and use your chip or tap your card on the reader if at all possible. Granted, criminals are likely hard at work trying to find a way around that, but for the moment, that’s the safest bet. In the meantime, those potentially affected should watch their bank accounts — and call their bank if they believe they’re a victim of theft.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.