PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) yesterday warned citizens to be careful about fraudsters who are becoming much more ingenious in ways to skim them of their hard-earned cash during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Assistant Superintendent of Police Curtis Julien told a news conference that scammers have now resorted to using point-of-sale machines in business places rather than automated teller machines (ATM) to get cash from unsuspecting customers.
Julien said the process requires the use of a skimming device which records information from a customer’s card and that the data is used later to withdraw cash from the person’s account. Julien urged the public to be more observant when using bank cards and credit cards to purchase items.
“Most people swipe their cards on these machines and do not pay attention to what is going on with the machine. They are usually preoccupied with something else but it is important to keep your eyes on your cards.
”As long as there is any suspicion that the activity taking place is fraudulent, you must raise a red flag and stop that transaction. Call your financial institution and ensure your money is intact. We need to be very vigilant,” he said.
The senior police officer said that while in some instances the cashier may not necessarily be aware that the machine is recording the customer’s card information, business owners may be involved as the point-of-sale machines may be rigged to record and store information.
He acknowledged that while compromised point-of-sale machines are difficult to detect, there are anti-tampering devices installed in new machines to reduce the chances of skimming.
“These skimmers are used for reading your information, capturing it, and they only give receipts that say ‘complication error’ or ‘transaction failed’,” he said, while giving a demonstration as to how the schemes are carried out.
“Properly issued machines in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean when tampered with will also process your transaction, capturing your pin and your financial data which goes directly to the card reader where they process the information using a laptop, cellphone or any device with a Bluetooth mechanism,” Julien said.
The police also warning against persons who use the Internet to lure lonely people into parting with their funds.
Acting Inspector Cornelius Samuel said while there have been no reports of romance scams in Trinidad and Tobago, it is a common tactic used by criminals in other parts of the world and it won’t hurt if the public is aware of this type of online fraud sothey can be alert.
“Romance or friendship scams is a type of fraud that involves the exploitation of people who are seeking a romantic partner or a companion through online dating sites, an application, or social media in general,” Samuel said, noting that as reliance on online communications has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, fraudsters are finding newer and more creative means of targeting their victims.
He said the criminals use Google‘s image search feature to verify whether their online partner’s profile pictures are real or stock photos and that by the time most people are swindled of their funds they are often too embarrassed to come forward and make a report to police.
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