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September 07, 2009

Members of credit card skimmer ring convicted

An identity theft ring involving the use of a credit card skimmer was busted and convicted in Illinois.  Here's the article from

"Three individuals caught using a credit card skimmer and encoder were convicted for a string of financial crimes including but not limited to identity theft.

The individuals conducted a credit card cloning and ID theft scam using a credit card skimmer to steal credit card numbers and a credit card encoder to create physical copies of the stolen credit cards. The stolen credit cards were skimmed from customers at a Taco Bell restaurant and from gym members in Broomfield, Woodland Park, Lakewood, Pueblo, and Canon City.

Police said this week that thirty two year old Mark Nielson was convicted of identity theft and racketeering and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Twenty four year old Corey Skinner was convicted of identity theft and received a 10-year sentence.

According to court documents twenty three year old Amanda Stillwell was convicted of racketeering and is awaiting a sentencing hearing near the end of the month.

Devices similar to the credit card skimmer used in these crimes are available legally in the US and advertised on multiple web sites. During a search we conducted we encountered one retailer even running “15% off sale” on credit card skimmers. The credit card encoder, which takes the data collected by the credit card skimmer and “writes” it onto either old credit cards or blank credit card stock, is also readily available for sale online.

This ring of criminals used the cloned credit cards to purchase merchandise. Crooks using credit card skimmers also sell the data to other criminals know as 'carders' in online chat rooms."
This is what a credit card skimmer looks like:

As you can see, they can be as small as a lighter, anything big enough for a credit card to be swiped through it.  It is used to steal the credit card number and other information that is accessed when a credit card is scanned.

This is what a credit card encoder looks like -

 Or it can look like this -
Encoders are used to transfer the stolen credit card information onto another credit card or, in the case of the second picture, to create a whole new card. 
Watch out for scanners that are added to ATMs or other machines where you scan your credit card.  If you pay attention, you should be able to tell if an identity thief has added a scanner to a legitimate machine.

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