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Crooks plant fake payment card terminals at multiple stores

'Visually identical' pads siphoned customer data

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Crooks planted bogus payment card processing terminals at multiple locations operated by the Hancock Fabrics chain store that allowed for the theft of sensitive financial data from customers, the company warned.

The personal identification number pads were stolen in August and September and "replaced with visually identical, but fraudulent PIN pad units," Hancock Fabrics warned in a letter to customers. "As a result, certain account information and PIN numbers used at these locations may have been unlawfully acquired by third parties."

Intercepted information may have included the name printed on the payment card, the card number, the expiration date, and the PIN if it was entered into one of the fraudulent terminals. The company recommended that customers review their account statements and credit reports.

The hardware switcheroo is only the latest example of crooks surreptitiously planting a skimming device that can siphon huge amounts of sensitive data. Last month, three Bulgarian men were charged with defrauding banks of more than $137,000 in a scheme that attached devices to numerous automatic teller machines in Massachusetts. If they are convicted, maximum prison sentences range from 42 years to 57 years.

And as Forbes points out, crooks in Canada appear to have planted fake hardware to point-of-sale terminals at a Wendy's fast food restaurant in 2007. Police in Utah said recently that skimmers attached to gas-station pumps stole at least $11,000 and may have remained active for as long as 60 days.

Hancock employees have recently replaced every PIN pad unit in all of its stores with upgraded models. It has also upgraded automated systems that resist tampering and monitor PIN pads for suspicious activity. ®

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