Fraudsters steal £32k from Edinburgh businesses in 'distraction' card machine scam

Fraudsters have stolen at least £32,000 from Edinburgh businesses in a series of distraction-based card machine scams over the past three weeks.

Thursday, 23rd May 2019, 4:50 pm
Police are urging businesses to stay vigilant. Pic: Police Scotland/ Proxilia Studio-Shutterstock

Police in Edinburgh are now appealing for information and have urged businesses to be vigilant following the frauds and attempted frauds on card devices.

The culprits will distract staff as another in control of the card terminal manipulates the machines into fraudulently refunding them large amounts of money.

In a statement released today, police said at least eight incidents have taken place since Saturday, May 4th in the city centre, Haymarket and Blackhall areas and have resulted in a minimum of £32,000 being stolen.

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Police are urging businesses to stay vigilant. Pic: Police Scotland/ Proxilia Studio-Shutterstock

All are being treated as linked and the two male suspects are both described as black, aged 20 to 30 years old, of slim build, around 5ft 8ins tall, with English accents.

On one occasion they were in the company of two other men and, on another occasion, were with a woman described as being mixed-race with a London accent.

Detective Inspector Gordon Burns, of the East's Economic Crime Unit, said: "These fraudsters tend to target small businesses, as they typically have less staff than major retailers.

"One person takes control of the card machine, and another tries to distract staff while their accomplice manipulates this and refunds a substantial amount of money onto their card.

"Distraction techniques are not a new phenomenon. However, with more sophisticated payment technology available the use of card devices within these seems to be an increasing trend.

"I’d urge staff to treat the terminal like the till - always ensure you are in control of the transaction and have sight of the device.

"Be wary if someone is taking longer than five to ten seconds to type in their PIN, of if someone is else is trying to get your attention during this time.

"Businesses can install additional security measures on these devices to prevent refunds being given without specific authorisation, and should speak to their acquirer for further advice.

"If you think you may have been a victim of this contact your bank immediately, secure any CCTV and contact Police Scotland via 101."

Anyone with information about these incidents who has not already contacted Police Scotland should call 101, quoting reference 2723 of 20th May, or report information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.