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The recent onslaught of identity theft warnings, from security breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus to the recent “Heartbleed” vulnerability found in OpenSSL, hasn’t deterred thieves from attempting to steal credit card information.

A new threat has been reported by the MTA New York City transit system that MetroCard vending machines in subway areas have been compromised, putting hundreds of thousands of passengers at risk of having their banking and credit card information stolen.

Eye-Spy: Pinhole Camera and Skimmer Uncovered

On April 10, the MTA transit authority released a press release advising subway passengers to check their bank account and credit card transactions for unauthorized charges and suspicious activity. An MTA customer noticed a credit card skimming device attached to a MetroCard vending machine at the Columbus Circle station.

A customer removed the device from the machine, and reported it to an on-duty station agent. Upon further investigation, a pinhole camera disguised as an electrical outlet was uncovered. These two devices working in tandem not only allow criminals to capture credit card numbers and personal information, but also record victims’ PINs as they’re entered into the vending machine’s keypad.

“We have already dispatched personnel to check all MVMs system-wide today for other devices,” said MTA New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco in a statement. “As was the case yesterday, we continue to ask our customers ‘If You See Something, Say Something,’ particularly if they notice any suspicious activity or device in our system.”

While this identity theft attack was, as of now, centralized in MTA NYC subways, public transit users across the country are advised to remain vigilant about protecting their credit card information.

How to Protect Against Identity Theft

Authorities of the MTA NYC transit system recommend that subway users avoid this type of identity theft risk by signing up for EasyPay MetroCards, which auto-refill balances when funds run low.

If that’s not an option, public transit passengers should evaluate vending machines before swiping their credit cards. Assess whether the machine’s credit card slot has been tampered with by tugging at it; a fraudulent credit card skimmer will usually pull right off.

Additionally, when entering PINs at a public machine — whether a gas pump, ATM or MTA pass machine — make sure to cover the keypad from above. This can help deter pinhole cameras from capturing your security information.


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