$40,000 charged to un-knowing customers
Two men are set to appear in Summary Court
Tuesday charged in an elaborate scheme that involved the theft of credit and
debit card numbers via a process known as ‘skimming’.
Royal Cayman Islands Police
investigators said there were at least 21 victims of the scam that ended up
costing a local bank CI$40,838.75 in repayments to individuals who had their
card numbers stolen.
Detectives said the technology used
in the scam was more sophisticated than what they have encountered previously.
Investigators also frankly admitted
that there were at least two – and probably more – suspects involved in the
card skimming scam who have not been charged in the case.
The two suspects who have been
charged – a 33-year-old Jamaican and a 24-year-old Caymanian – will be
identified in court Tuesday. The formal charges against the two – filed under
the Proceeds of Criminal Conduct Law – will be laid out then.
According to detectives with the
RCIPS Financial Crime Unit, the 24-year-old man acted as the credit card
information gatherer. He was previously employed at Rackam’s Pub and
Restaurant, but no longer works there.
Police said the restaurant worker
would simply run a customer’s card through what’s known as a skimming machine,
a device that records credit or debit card details, prior to charging customers
for a meal or drinks.
The number would then be taken off
that machine by the 33-year-old man, who had worked as an audio-visual
technician at a local hotel. The older man would allegedly pay the younger man
between $20 and $50 dollars per card number provided, according to detectives.
Through the use of a computer
programme, which even detectives admit they do not fully understand, the
skimmed card numbers were then transferred to dummy bank cards that would come
up in the suspect’s name.
When used, the card receipts would
show the suspect’s actual name on them – not the name of the customer who had
their card skimmed.
However, an alert store clerk might
have been able to spot something fishy in those transactions. Police said the
receipts from the dummy credit or debit cards would only show the suspect’s
first name, a sign that the card number being used didn’t really belong to the
person using it.
“But in practice, store clerks
typically pay little attention to card receipts,” RCIPS Detective Constable
Richard Clarke said.
For the most part, the skimmed card
numbers were used to charge for goods and services in Jamaica. Mr. Clarke said, in the
grand scheme of things, CI$40,000 might not seem like a lot of money. But in Jamaica,
where the local currency exchange rate to the US dollar is close to 100 to one,
it’s a small fortune.
Mr. Clarke said it was clear that more
than two people were involved in this skimming scam. Only six of the 21 credit
or debit card numbers stolen in this case came from customers at Rackam’s.
Other local businesses were also hit.
In addition, at the time many of
the illegal charges were made to the stolen card numbers at Jamaican
businesses, neither the 33-year-old Jamaican man nor the 24-year-old Caymanian
man were in Jamaica.
“As a result of my investigation, I
have identified that there were other people who were doing this,” Detective Constable
Richard Clarke said. “It would seem as if they had their own separate means to
get the (card) information. There is no evidence to show that there was a conspiracy
with all of them.”
Two other skimming suspects have
been identified by the RCIPS, but they have since left the Islands
and are, at least for the moment, beyond the reach of local law enforcement.
“If they do return, they will face
arrest,” Mr. Clarke said.
Since the arrests of the two men
last year, the RCIPS Financial Crimes Unit said reports of card skimming
activities have dropped off to nothing. They believe this particular group of
scammers operated between mid-May and mid-October 2009.
“In a sense, the arrests had a
positive effect on the Islands,” Detective