Scam devices found on TransLink payment machines

"Skimmers" steal bank card information, including PINs


By Lauren Accili

SkyTrain rider Matthew Rafael had no idea that scammers could get banking information through a Compass card vending machine.

Rafael was waiting for the YVR Airport train on Monday and did not know that transit police are warning riders that “skimmers” have recently accessed user information at three train stations.

He said he didn’t know what skimming was and that he uses cash most of the time, but he plans to take more precautions.

“Now that I’m aware of it, I mean I guess it would make me more nervous,” Rafael said.

“Skimming” uses device to steal banking information

Skimming is the act of stealing one’s financial information such as a card PIN at an ATM. An illegal card reading device is installed in the banking machine and can record user-entered PINs. Customers can be at risk because skimmers are difficult to recognize.

Of the six transit users interviewed Monday, none were aware of this issue and had not heard of skimming.

Lorena Cueva was waiting for the Waterfront train on her way to work. “I think there is not enough surveillance here in the SkyTrain,” Cueva said. “I’m going to be more careful, definitely.”

Tenzin Kuenseng was waiting at Marine Drive station with her friends. “That makes us worried,” Kuenseng said.

Transit police advise all transit users to be alert for skimmers while loading their Compass cards.

Transit police say skimming is rare at stations

Amanda Steed, media relations officer for Metro Vancouver transit police, said that skimming is relatively rare at transit stations and does not significantly affect ridership.

“It’s quite common among many other retailers all over the world. But for us, we’ve been pretty fortunate that it hasn’t been something that’s happened often for us,” Steed said.

Skimmers were found at the Marine Drive, YVR Airport and Vancouver City Centre train stations in late March.

Steed said that in addition to daily servicing of the Compass card vending machines, alarms that go off when the card machine is tampered with and there are cameras monitoring the machines.

“So as part of our police investigation, from a transit perspective, they have taken a lot of steps with the technician and then the alarm and monitoring system and all that,” Steed said.

She said machines with skimmers will look different than a normal machine.

“Some of the things you want to look for are like pieces of tape, like sometimes what they do is tape the device on with packing tape or electrical tape,” Steed said. “Sometimes you’ll see tape sort of rolling up in the corners, or something that just doesn’t look like it belongs in the machine.”

Steed advised the public to be on the lookout for skimmers.

“What we do ask people is that if they come across something like this, or something looks suspicious on a ticket vending machine when they’re purchasing a ticket, is to notify a SkyTrain attendant or Canada Line attendant.”

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