Criminal masterminds are making a comeback. First, there was a massive art heist in Paris last week worth hundreds of millions of dollars and now there is news that a covert ring of fraudsters has been operating in the Washington, D.C., area, stealing credit card information from restaurant goers.
The Washington Post reports that three employees at a Cheesecake Factory in D.C. have been charged with lifting credit card information from customers that was used to make $117,000 in purchases since 2008. What makes this crime particularly brilliant is that it went on for so long without being noticed and the employees were only working as part of a larger criminal network.
More from the Post: “Investigators with the U.S. Secret Service allege the servers were working for a larger fraud ring and were using electronic devices to 'skim' the credit card numbers of customers they served at the restaurant. The devices were handed off to others, and the stolen numbers were used to make fake credit cards and later used to buy gift cards and merchandise in the Washington area.”
Each of the employees reportedly earned $25 per stolen card number. (That’s not too bad. When I worked in retail, we got paid a $1 for getting customers to sign up for a store credit card.) Authorities apparently caught on to the crime a year ago after Citibank noticed a bunch of suspicious charges all originating from the same restaurant.
This crime is also a good reminder of why you should check your credit card statements regularly. It’s easy to spot a fraudulent purchase if it’s thousands of dollars, but if someone lifts your number and makes smaller purchases, it could get buried in your statements. If you haven’t already set up an online account with your bank, be sure to do so. Also, consider signing up for services like Mint.com, which help you to keep track of your income and expenses and alert you when a large sum of money is moved in your account.