For many recent Aldi shoppers, what may have started as a routine stop for groceries, ended with debit card theft.
Police in Lower Pottsgrove, Pa., discovered on Jan. 30 that a duo of thieves had been placing skimmers on local Aldi credit card terminals and stealing debit card information from shoppers, according to a Feb. 8 Tech Crunch story.
In Plain Sight
All it took was a matter of seconds to pull off the capers as the two men, while appearing to scan groceries, placed plastic skimmers over the credit card terminals. Store surveillance cameras captured the action. There were reportedly several victims, police told a local NBC affiliate.
This wasn’t a one-time occurrence, as the skimmers had been inserted at Aldis over the past few months. At the time of this writing, the suspects remain at large as police are using surveillance video to try and capture them.
Buyer Beware of Swiping
As for Aldi shoppers – as well as other retail establishments – stores that have installed chip-card readers for EMV cards don’t always use them. Launched in October 2015, many businesses continue using swiping as a faster way to get customers through checkout lines, such as Aldi, according to various reports.
But this isn’t always a good thing for consumers.
In response to Aldis’ skimmer thefts and their non-use of chip payments, security researcher Brian Krebs noted, “While Aldi does accept mobile payments such as Apple Pay and Google, it still hasn’t enabled chip payments. This is concerning as the customer data can be stolen from magnetic strips whens customers swipe them.”
What’s a Consumer to Do?
For some, using debit cards might be the preferred payment choice. It’s not always easy to determine if a credit card reader is safe, but according to experts, here are a few precautions:
- Before swiping a debit card, check the card reader to see if it’s either flimsy or looks odd. If something feels off, it probably is and another terminal should be used.
- Be wary of ATMs at nightclubs, convenience stores, or low-traffic ATMs, as they have also been targets of credit card skimmers.
- Instead of using a debit card, pay with a credit card if possible. Information is not stored on the card’s magnetic strip and the underlying bank for the card will be liable for the charges.
- Whenever possible, use cash to alleviate any potential thefts from the terminals.
- Set up mobile bank alerts via email or text with a set amount. This immediately alerts accountholders if a transaction exceeds this pre-selected amount should a card theft happen from a skimmer or a lost card. If it is a transaction not made by the accountholder, the bank should be contacted immediately to stop any further fraudulent activity.
Author: Dave Rathmanner
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