The FBI has just issued a warning about the actions of organized crime members from Africa who are perpetrating a rather unusual credit card scam in the United States. Credit cards are processed generally through systems in which the retailer’s processing equipment sends a signal to the credit card authorizer when the card is swiped through the retailer’s card reader. In the normal case, the authorizer approves the sale and the transaction is completed. What these African organized crime members have been doing is merely covering with aluminum foil the feed horns, which are the part of the retailers satellite equipment that transmits the messages and thereby blocking the systems from working. These feed horns are located on the roofs of the retail establishments using this technology. Unsuspecting retailers have come to learn that while they thought that the credit card transactions had actually been processed, the interference with the transmissions caused the cards never to have been charged and because many retailers do not validate every credit card transaction, the criminals have been able to purchase expensive electronic equipment without paying for them. The criminals then have been pawning the equipment in New York or sending the equipment back to Africa. At the present time, this scam appears to have been limited to Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but is expected to spread rapidly throughout America.
Retailers should make sure that they validate every credit card transaction before completing the sale and if their credit card systems appear not to be working, they should make sure that the system is truly malfunctioning rather than merely having been tampered with at their establishment. The ease with which this particular scam can be accomplished and the low cost involved with perpetrating this fraud almost guarantees that we will be seeing more of this soon.