Updated Cybercrooks are targeting self-service checkout systems in UK supermarkets to cash-out compromised US credit and debit card accounts.
Discussions on underground forums suggest that store chains including Asda and Tesco are being targeted. Rather than buying groceries, which would be hard to sell on, the scam relies on getting "cash back" payments or buying high-value items, according to a BBC investigation. However, a spokewoman for Tesco told El Reg that cash back transactions are not authorised from self-service terminals.
Criminals are looking for a way to empty compromised accounts after a US-based gang harvested thousands of debit card details along numbers from compromised ATM machines. British crooks involved in the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit cards based on these details have turned to carder forums. They want to recruit mules to go into UK supermarkets and make withdrawals or purchases in return for a cut of the proceeds.
Andrew Goodwill, a director at card fraud prevention specialists The 3rd Man, said that the crooks were probably buying goods such as whisky that are easy to sell on. He suggested it was unlikely that the gang had ATM numbers, otherwise they would simply take the money out from cash machines.
"This approach wouldn't work on UK-issued cards but would work on foreign issued cards where there is a fall back to using data from the magnetic stripe in cases where the cards don't support Chip and PIN," he explained. Goodwill expressed doubts about whether the scam was either widespread or successful. "This is risky because fraudsters risk been captured by CCTV on checkouts. Carders typically like to remain faceless," he added.
Self-service checkout systems are being targeted because they minimise the chance of staff spotting the fake cards. Fraudsters know the account balance on compromised accounts and have run up batches of fake plastic cards with magnetic strips. These cards allow fraudulent access to accounts with balances of no more than $1,000. And they have been made on the cheap - they are plain plastic cards without bank-branding.
The BBC passed on details of the investigation to the specialist anti-fraud detectives at the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit. The orchestrator of the scam claimed he had details of 2,300 cards to hand on to a poster in a carder forum earlier this month.
Tesco has rolled out Chip and PIN in its supermarkets but reads from the mag strip of cards from countries where the technology is yet to be introduced, such as the US. Tesco and Asda told the BBC that bank systems are automatically contacted when a card is swiped. This procedure blocks transactions in cases where account details are known to have been compromised.
In 2006 Tesco's self-service checkout systems were targeted in frauds that involved the simple payment for groceries or petrol without either paying for or signing for goods. In response, Tesco rolled-out Chip and PIN to its self-service terminals in late 2006.
A spokeswoman for APACS, the UK payment association, said the introduction of Chip and PIN in the US would curtail this type of fraud. "Until that happens we will still see fraud on US cards happening in our shops and our cash-machines and also fraud on our cards happening in the US," she said. ®