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Credit Card Skimmer Found at Germantown Safeway Store

Montgomery County Police are warning consumers to take note of any defects or minor differences in the point-of-sale devices at supermarkets and retailers after a skimming device was found at the Safeway Store in Germantown.

Police were called to the Safeway Store at 19718 Germantown Road on Thursday, January 28, after someone noted a suspicious device on a credit card terminal in one of the self-checkout lanes at the grocery store, said MCPD spokesperson Rebecca Innocenti.

Innocenti said detectives from the MCPD’s Financial Crimes Division determined that the machine was a skimming device used to collect credit card information as well as pin numbers. “Detectives called this particular device an overlay skimmer because it goes right on top of the legitimate device,” said Innocenti. “This was at the self-checkout lane. It is easier to put these devices on the self-checkout lanes because there isn’t an employee there 100 percent of the time to watch the machines and behavior of customers.”

Detectives believe that no consumer information was comprised. “With a skimmer device such as this,” said Innocenti, “the suspect has to come back to retrieve the device to access the information the skimmer has collected. In this case, that did not happen because it was detected prior to the criminal coming back to collect the device. There were no victims, per se, in this case.”

According to police, this type of device captures the information contained on a credit or debit card’s magnetic strip but, since the police have the device, they believe information is safe.

The device is designed to fit directly over top of the Verifone terminals in use at many Safeways and other retailers. It has a PIN pad overlay to capture the user’s PIN, and a mechanism for recording the data stored on a card’s magnetic stripe when customers swipe their cards at self-checkout aisles.

Police believe the skimmer was placed at the self-checkout at the Safeway store on Wednesday, January 27. Police believe it was only there for one day.

Inncenti warned that there could be more devices like the one found at the Germantown Safeway because there was a handwritten number “3” on the inside shell of the device. “Detectives believe that there were other skimming devices placed in the area, but they don’t have any idea where or if they were placed,” said Innocenti. “Detectives believe that the suspects are keeping track of their devices since they are numbering them in this manner.”

A spokesman for Safeway acknowledged the incident and reiterated that no consumer data was comprised by this incident.

“We recently discovered the one skimmer at this one store in the self-checkout lane,” said Craig M. Muckle, Manager, Public Affairs/Government Relations with Safeway Inc. “We immediately notified law enforcement and are working with them on the investigation. We discovered the skimmer through our own internal system, which is evidence that we have an effective system for discovering these kinds of devices. The most important thing for customers to understand is that the skimmer was found quickly, and no customer data was compromised.”

Innocenti reminded customers to protect themselves and their sensitive information by noting if there are any loose portions of the point-of-sale device which they are using to check-out at any retail store. “Make sure that no parts of the machine are loose or show signs of tampering. Take note if the device has a different color, or different material, or different graphics than what you normally see at a location. If something doesn’t look right on the terminal, trust your instincts and call the police so that we can respond and investigate,” she said.

She reminded consumers that there are many different types of devices, and they can be in used in many different locations where such transactions take place, including retailers, ATMs, and gas stations.


Top: The Safeway store on Germantown Road where an overlay skimmer was found last month. Photo by Germantown Pulse.

Next: A photo of a skimming device made for self-checkout lanes that was removed from a Safeway Store in Germantown last month.

Photo courtesy Brian Krebs from the blog KrebsonSecurity.com.

#germantown #MCPD

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