Credit Card Fraud at Restaurants Isn’t an Urban Legend

Important News Regarding Restaurant Credit Card Fraud

A while ago we wrote about how important it is to keep your credit card in sight when paying at a restaurant. We didn’t have any specific cases to cite, but we knew there was a risk of unscrupulous servers stealing credit card information when a customer isn’t looking. It turns out this isn’t just a “what if” scenario. This type of credit card fraud has actually happened.

An Unfortunate Event

Eight restaurant employees in Los Angeles, California were arrested for stealing the credit card information of customers and selling that information for $200 a pop and one more suspect is still being sought. In all, about one-million dollars was stolen as a result of this fraud.

When customers would pay these restaurant employees with their credit cards, the employees would swipe the credit card through a device that recorded the information on the card before actually swiping the card through the register. That information was then sold to the masterminds of the credit card fraud crime.

It wasn’t just credit card information that was stolen either. Debit card information was also taken and that information led to the criminals being able to access the victims’ bank accounts. The criminals would deposit counterfeit checks into the bank accounts, would withdraw the money that wasn’t really in the account and would then buy postal money orders with the fraudulent funds, creating a negative balance for the victims whose accounts were breeched.

A Lesson Learned

As horrible as this situation is, we can all learn something from it. While it may be uncomfortable or downright embarrassing to demand that your credit card be kept in your sight when paying for your meal at a restaurant, it sure does beat the alternative of becoming the victim of credit card fraud like this one.


Security professionals who understand that the risk of credit card fraud borne from online transactions is very low sometimes explain to people that it's MUCH more likely that a waiter in a restaurant will steal your CC info than a hacker doing so online.

For this reason and others, I never use my debit card - instead I always use a credit card so that there's a buffer between my bank account my transactions, whether online or off.

Back in the mid-80s I was hit by a low-tech version of this. A restaurant employee copied down my credit card info. The following month a fraudulent charge showed up on my statement from the same chain but a different location. I contacted the credit card company to investigate. The slip (remember, this was the low-tech 80s) was not an imprint of my card, but was a hand-written version. The credit card company immediately fixed the fraudulent amount on my statement. I'm not sure if they or the restaurant ever found or pressed charges against the employee.

Lesson - keep your receipts and carefully check them against your monthly statement(s).

I have also heard of card swapping at restaurants. A friend of mine went to a restaurant and when the meal was over she handed the server her credit card. When she got the charge slip at the table and signed it, she thought she was ready to leave. Luckily she looked down at the card before putting it back in her purse and noticed that, though the card was identical to her own, the one the server had returned to her was not hers AND it was expired. When she brought this to the servers attention, the server apologized, walked back to the window of the kitchen, and without saying a work, handed the bogus card to someone in back and the real card was returned. Just goes to show you that you really need to watch people, because you never know where the next dishonest person will pop up. Be sure to check your credit cards before you leave any establishment!

This is why it pays to use pre-paid credit cards that can be recharged on a regular basis.

Are you self employed and have you one or more websites to advertise your products? I recently had an Email from someone saying they wanted to buy four of my paintings on my site. They were getting a friend to send me a cheque in sterling to my address in Ireland ( a euro area.) They amount they wanted to send me was for well over double the amount of the value of the pictures.And I was to ship the paintings to another friend of his for his birthday (In Spain). When I told him the cheque could take well over two weeks to reach me and possible another three weeks after that to clear> Also thet I could not send on the paintings till the cheuqe had cleared through his bank(in Spain)and That I would give him my Iban code and he could put the money direct into my account and I only wanted the value of the paintings to be put in. I said I would bill him later for the 100 or 200€ that shipping would cost.- I never heard any more from him. This is a scam where the cheuqe turns out to be dud and they also get you to send back from your account all the extra money that they sent on and also they end up with four of your paintings. You might like to mention this scam on your site if you think it would help others

How would bank information be collected from the debit card if you used it as a credit card? I was told that if you could use this and not give a PIN# to keep
your bank information safe.

What do you say when advised that the machine they use can not be transported to your table?

The only place I use my credit care where it is removed from my sight is in a restaurant. Hundreds of dollars worth of groceries were charged to a supermarket while I was out of the state and my only card was in use in Va., and D.C. The El Paso store manager refused to let me see what name was used on the charge slip as did his Hqs. in Albuquerque. Thr credit card company removed the charges.

A few years ago, after finishing a meal I paid with my Credit Card, which had to be "swiped" "out back". When I got it back I didn't notice it was not my card - in fact I didn't find out until 3 days later when I got a call from the lady who had my card. (The credit card company gave her my phone number.) We made arrangements to meet and "trade back" our cards and then we both contacted the Company. The interesting thing was that she was on vacation and had made over $1,000 worth of purchases on my card ... the charges were removed. Later I questioned about the charges I had made on her card (as they did not show on my statement) and the Company informed me - "when a clerk accepts a card in a man's name, from a woman, and fails to enquire about it - we don't reimburse the store! they don't get their money if they don't check into these things.(It's the same if a man uses a female's card, of course.)
I guess that comes under the heading of honesty pays - I know the lady must think so!

I recieved an email today, warning about the 809 area code, and it was supposedly sent by an ATT employee. If you are interested in seeing it, let me know and I will send it to you.
(I don't want this posted.)

Posted by: D Goldstein
The above posted a fraudulent use of credit card.
My question is: How did the restaurant manage to get an 'expired' card of the customer ????

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