Almost a year ago I was at the annual convention for members of the National Speakers Association. As a professional speaker, I attempt to make that each year. This year held something special for me – something unexpected. Upon return home to Dallas, Texas I found that I had become a victim of identity theft.
How? How could it be that my debit card was being used in San Francisco to make purchases at a wig shop. I’ll admit that while my hair is receding, I don’t need a wig. Fortunately, I was able to stop the process before it got out of hand. But the question still remained – HOW?
I later found out I was a victim of “skimming”. So what’s that you might ask?
Well, a Texas, man, Bobby Noy Soulinthong, 26, who pled guilty to his role in a credit card “skimming” scheme, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Other defendants, charged in separate indictments but involved in the same scheme, have also pled guilty and have been sentenced. Dung Ba Nguyen, 28, of North Richland Hills, Texas, and Bryan Nanthathongthip, 24, of Dallas, were each sentenced earlier this year to 12 months in prison. All three defendants were ordered to pay restitution.
Nguyen admitted purchasing stolen credit card account information that had been “skimmed” from restaurant customers, and admitted having more than 100 credit card account numbers stored on his personal “thumb drive.” Soulinthong and Nanthathongthip admitted purchasing goods from GameStop and Target with counterfeit debit cards, which they knew had been electronically encoded with a stolen account number.
The account numbers were stolen by a method known as “skimming.” Individuals working at North Texas restaurants surreptitiously recorded account numbers and other account information from the magnetic strips on restaurant customers’ credit and debit cards with a small hand-held device known as a “skimmer.” After purchasing the stolen account information, Nguyen encoded it onto other credit cards. Soulinthong and Nanthathongthip used the re-encoded cards to purchase consumer goods that they could then re-sell. The restaurant customers whose credit card information had been stolen would receive the bills for those purchases.
According to credit.com – Skimming – Thieves use tiny hand-held credit card readers to collect the information on your credit card’s magnetic strip. Skimming is common in restaurants and stores where you turn over your credit card to pay. When a skimming device is full of hundreds of credit card numbers, these numbers can be sold or used to create fake credit cards. Skimming devices can also be placed over the normal card reader on an ATM to steal your data when you try to withdraw money.
As a white collar crime speaker, often I am asked questions about how to protect yourself against identity theft. Many of the methods used can be avoided, but “skimming” is tough to avoid. When you go to the restaurant, you give your card to pay your bill and, hence, are relying on the honesty of the restaurants employees. Should one of them have been Soulinthong you may have been a victim of identity theft.
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft and have any comments or helpful hints to avoid this dreaded form of white collar crime – FEEL FREE TO COMMENT.
White Collar Crime Speaker – Chuck Gallagher – signing off…