Scam targets debit terminals

NANAIMO – City merchants bilked of thousands of dollars in debit card scam.

Nanaimo Mounties are warning merchants to pay attention while taking customer transactions after several stores were bilked out of thousands of dollars.

Several male suspects and at least one woman are involved in using transaction machine codes and a diversion tactic to draw store clerks’ attention away from debit machines long enough for the thefts to take place.

Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said small stores with just one or two clerks on duty are prime targets.

The scam plays out when two people enter a store and one suspect starts making a purchase with a debit card for something small, like a chocolate bar.

“He comes in with a woman or somebody else and as he’s making the transaction for the chocolate bar the other person distracts the clerk,” O’Brien said. “What (the suspect) does at this point is he enters the merchant code ID, which he knows, and cancels the transaction. He rips off the cancellation printout and then overrides the transaction and enters a refund for up to $1,000 and credits his debit card. Once that is done, he goes back to the original transaction of buying the chocolate bar.”

The scam relies on the fact that many merchants have not bothered to change their debit machine’s original generic authorization code to a unique password known only to them. It’s the generic code that the suspects are allegedly using.

Stores elsewhere on the Island have been hit and police are warning merchants to make sure they change their passcodes to prevent this kind of theft.

“We figure we know who they are,” O’Brien said. “They’re from the Lower Mainland and they’re working the Island now. There have been several stores hit in Nanaimo already.”

The first suspect is a Caucasian male, approximately 6’1” tall, in his early 30s. He has light brown hair, a goatee and tattoos on his upper arms.

The second male is Caucasian, 5’5” tall in his early 20s.

The taller male has been accompanied by a Caucasian woman about 5’5” tall with long blonde hair. She has been well dressed and on one occasion was wearing a black dress and carried a neon-red purse. The vehicle they were seen driving is a dark colour Lincoln Navigator. Anyone with information on these frauds or the people involved is asked to contact the Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at