Just another reason why you should try to use cash whenever possible.
Ever wonder how much the data on the back of your credit card is worth to a corrupt food service worker? The answer, it turns out, depends on which restaurants you frequent in Florida.
For some reason, the Sunshine State is a hotbed of federal prosecutions for “skimming”, in which a retail or service worker with a criminal bent swipes your credit card through a pocket-sized magstripe reader when you’re not looking — capturing your name, card number, expiration date and other information.
In the online black market, wholesalers peddle this data to credit card counterfeiters for as much as $50 for a corporate Visa or Mastercard. (Asian and European cards go for even more.) But how much does the poor food service worker get for putting his job on the line in the first place?
Thanks to Florida, we have some idea. A review of the court documents in a few cases shows the money at the bottom of the food chain varies dramatically. Here’s a rundown on what some skimmers at Florida eateries were taking home per card before the feds swooped in.
Lan Pan Asian Café, Miami $7.50
Too many middlemen depressed the price for Daniel Argueta, who, until February, was a server at this Asian restaurant in a Miami mall. At the top level, a buyer named “Warijo” was paying a decent $20 for skimmed cards. But there were two more layers of crooks between Argueta and Warijo, and by the time they all took their piece, the waiter was making less than the menu price of a Tuna Tataki. Meanwhile, the fruits of Argueta’s labor were used to ring up $30,000 in bogus charges on 43 cloned cards — or about $700 a piece.
Last month an alert customer at one of the chicken chain’s Miami stores spotted a worker skimming his card behind the counter. When the cops arrived, the sticky fingered employee initially claimed he was innocent, then cracked like a poultry egg when the Secret Service appeared with their crisp suits and a few more questions. After turning over his Mini-123 magstripe reader, the worker told the agents that he’d been offered $10 per credit card by a guy from the neighborhood, who was quickly rounded up and thrown in the pen.
Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, but don’t let Alex Joel Garcia hold your credit card. In March, Garcia admitted to the feds that he’d supplemented his fast food income to the tune of $7,000 by selling credit card data he skimmed from drive-through patrons. He’d been recruited by a customer — “want to make some extra money?” — and was earning only $10 per card, but evidently made it up in volume.
Now we’re getting into some real money. Waiter Evolio Mechado got his skimmer from a contact he knew as “Chispa,” who slipped him a Jackson for every swipe. Last April the Secret Service, following up an informant’s tip, nailed Mechado, turned him, busted Chispa, turned Chispa, then set up the alleged mastermind of the ring, one Ivan Banguela. On the drive to jail, Banguela complained to the agents that he’d been having trouble finding a real job.
We’re surprised to see fried patties beat out flame broiled Whoppers and quality Latin fare, but there you have it. Hernandez Gonzalez was given a beefy $30 per card for skimming at the drive-through lane at a Miami McDonalds last month. He was caught after a customer noticed his visit to the golden arches was immediately followed by a fraudulent charge on his card, prompting the manager to go through the restaurant’s surveillance tapes. Gonzalez told the feds he was being paid by someone named “Arturo,” but we want to know if the Hamburglar has an alibi.