Report: Disgruntled waitress skims credit cards

The result of a criminal investigation in Florida should serve as a cautionary tale about how easy this is to do.

By Karen Datko Aug 16, 2011 5:09PM

Unscrupulous waitresses and waiters have a small but high-tech tool to get back at you if, say, you're a bad tipper or you complain too much.


Case in point: A Florida waitress who felt abused by customers ran the offenders' credit cards through a skimmer, essentially stealing their financial identities, according to sheriff's deputies in Pasco County.


New credit cards made with the skimmed information were used to buy more than $5,700 worth of stuff, which authorities said was then sold for cash.


"Whatever happened to the good ol' days of just spitting in a customer's food if they were nasty to you?" Chris Morran wrote at The Consumerist.


Credit card skimming is probably more common than you think. It's one of "5 ways thieves steal credit card data" identified by Bankrate.

Modus operandi: The waitress whisks away your credit card and swipes it through the restaurant's register. Then, she pulls out a small device, about the size of an ice cube, from her apron and swipes it through that, says Sergeant David Schultz of the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office in Texas. While you're scraping the last of the chocolate frosting from your plate, your credit card information has been stored in the device, known as a skimmer. The waitress returns your card and performs the same magic trick on dozens of credit cards in a week.

How can you protect yourself? This is a tough one, because skimmers can pop up in a variety of locations, including on ATMs and at store checkouts.

Post continues after video.

Some suggestions:

  • You can switch to cash, which seems extreme until something like this has happened to you.
  • Keep your credit or debit card in plain sight. That may mean paying the cashier rather than the restaurant server. You can leave the tip in cash.
  • Regularly monitor your credit card bills and bank accounts, which could include signing up for alerts. "The latest scheme began to unravel as residents noticed the strange charges on their credit card accounts," the St. Petersburg Times reports.
  • Report any misuse of funds to police and the issuing financial institutions. With a credit card, you're legally liable for only $50, but credit card companies usually won't assess even that. With debit cards, you can also limit your liability if you report a loss in a timely fashion.
  • If your financial identity has been compromised, put a fraud alert or possibly a freeze on your credit reports.

The waitress, her cousin -- who allegedly provided the skimmer and made the cards -- and his former girlfriend face criminal charges, the Times said.


"During the interview, she identified the people she skimmed were the ones that ran her around, made her work real hard," sheriff's detective John Suess told WTSP-TV. "Maybe she's scared of a hard day's work."


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Aug 17, 2011 12:04PM

I just had my card skimmed at a local grocery store. The device was in the credit card scanner and when I scanned the card myself the machine blinked and didn't record my card. STOP if this happens to you and ask for the store manager, because at that point your card has already been read and recorded on the "perps" device. Do not rescan the card, although the second time it will go through to the credit card company for request of payment.


NOTE that the card never left my hand and they still got the info. My situation was rectified and I have not seen the employee there since this incident.

Aug 17, 2011 1:52PM

If the wait staff does their job properly, we tip accordingly. If they do it poorly, I speak with the wait staff and explain why I failed to tip 20% or above. I have left 33% or more when the service was exceptional. I have also left next to nothing when the service was next to nothing. I realise that I am not the only customer, but you reap what you sow.(spelling?) If I see the wait staff is harried or rushed or treated badly by other customers, I take that into account. My wife was a waitress so we are very liberal when it comes to the service. If the wait staff does not earn the tip though, I do not give away money. When I ask for a refill on my water when I get my order, I expect a refill before I finish my meal. I also expect that when I order an appetizer, that..

1. I get the appetizer.

2. I get the appetizer before my main meal comes out.

3. I get the right appetizer.

4. I get the right meal and it is at least cooked right and warm.

I know the wait staff is not responsible for the way the meal is prepared, so I do not hold it against them if the food sucks. I give a chance to fix it. If the problem is not fixed, I ask for a supervisor, explain my position and if the wait staff is innocent (in my opinion), I exonnerate them. If the manager comps my meal, then the wait staff still gets tipped in respect to the level of service they provided.

Nothing is free my friends. You have to work for what you want.


Aug 17, 2011 2:22PM

This doesn't just happen at stores and resturants.  I stopped for gas late one night after going to night classes, when I got there, the gas jockey was making a call on his cell phone (I live in Oregon, we cannot pump our own gas).  When I gave him my credit card to purchase gas, I heard a very familiar sound of a camera phone clicking and then he handed my card back to me with the back facing up.


As soon as I got home I called the police and they said there was nothing they could do about it, then I called my credit card company and found out that there were TWO purchases made at that gas station within 5 minutes of each other.  I placed ****rt only on my card to see what would happen, by morning over $1,000 in charges had been made on ebay, Amazon, etc.


Called the district office for the gas station, when they confronted the guy that pumped my gas and took his cell phone, they found over 30 pictures of credit cards.

Aug 17, 2011 3:01PM
Having worked in the food service industry I can attest to the fact that the wait staff in most restaurants take their fair share of BS from customers.  That being said, having a customer who desperately needs an attitude adjustment is no excuse for committing a crime.  This sort of thing gives all wait staff a bad name and articles like this cause unnecessary wide spread panic. One bad apple doesn't spoil the whole bunch. 
Aug 17, 2011 3:07PM
I am a waiter and have been for 18 years. This isn't the first waitress to get caught. I worked with a girl in Chicago who was arrested for stealing over $40,000. in cash through credit cards to pay for her De Paul tuition. It's sad that people resort to stealing but it is part of the human condition. Not everyone is a thief. I hope this waitress gets her punishment quickly and is never allowed to be near credit cards again.
Aug 17, 2011 1:24PM
The biggest skimmers get away every day! your credit card company! Pay in cash and no ones gets more that deserved EVEN YOU!
Aug 17, 2011 12:38PM
find these people and cut their hands off like theydo in the real world
Aug 17, 2011 12:38PM

There is only one sure fire and cost effective weapon to stop almost all hacking in the world.

It's called the death penalty.  That is the only thing that will work.  Everything else just costs money and is not effective.

Aug 17, 2011 1:44PM
I agree with billcccc...if we start cutting off these thieves hands, this crap will stop!  I am so sick of these thieving punks who are taking from the good, hard-working people in our society.  I'm not just talking about the thieves this article if referring to, but all of them!  My wife works at a large home-improvement store, and I hear a story at least once a month of someone walking out with merchandise, and it infuriates me because most of the time these people get away with it!  (employees are not allowed to pursue, only report)  We also had our truck stolen a few years ago.  If these thieves start losing their hands, the descent people in our society would have less worries!
Aug 17, 2011 6:12PM
BS Disgruntled!  She is a thief.  She planned to steal and did with the help of her fellow thieves.  The rest  is nothing more than a nonsense excuse by a thief who got caught. You notice that she also gave up her fellow crooks to the police.  I guess they didn't treat her nice either. I believe stealing $5,700 is a felony in Florida.  Put her in jail for felony time.
Aug 17, 2011 1:45PM

We need a real reality check....

Servers and others need to get paid at least the minimum wage. However these restaurants feel that servers need only get paid around $2-$3/hr. Stating that the rest of their salary will come from tips. Now if my order comes up wrong or something else happens, guess what no tips or less tip. Pay people for the work they do, don't expect tips to pay salaries. Its an extra benefit for good service. Get REAL!

Aug 17, 2011 4:44PM
All over Europe they use portable card readers in restaurants.  The server comes to your table, swipes your card, and hands it back to you.  I don't know why those haven't caught on here.
Aug 17, 2011 6:21PM
Americans should go back to cash only. If it's not the restaurant ripping you off it's the bank that owns the credit or debit card. The banks charge the retailer for you using the card, then they charge you a debit fee. Wells fargo is going to start using a 3.oo fee. Move to a credit union and start eating at home. The banks have put all Americans at risk and they will continue to take your money till you stop them. Get some bone in your back will ya.
Aug 17, 2011 2:34PM

Is It Just Me Or Has "Customer Service" By These Chains


Become Obsolete Or "We're Doing You A Big Favor By Waiting On You".


Right Denny's, Waffle House,Taco Whatever, Burger Fling, International House Of Pancakes,Etc.?


Diregard This Statement-I'm Just A Little Frustrated Right Now As Are Most Americans.

Aug 17, 2011 2:40PM
What is need is swift and definite punishment. Not this liberal babble about justice and mecy and forgiveness. People think it only hurts the financial institutions. They never suffer. Their customers always pay. It is not a harmless white collar crime. It affects people's lives, sometime dramatically, sometimes tragically. Pinshment should be meter out proportionally. How about a minimun of a year in jail, without access to a computer, for every $1000 stolen.   
Aug 17, 2011 2:34PM

I always use cash when dining out, not only do you avoid this problem, but in restaurants where the waitress/waiter takes the money, you can leave the money on the table and leave.

To my way of thinking this works best.

I have a friend that loves to use his debit card, when we are out, we always end up waiting for him to pay his bill at a pay the waitress/waiter restaurant.

Aug 26, 2011 9:02AM
Regardless of all the "bleeding-hearts" espousing "misstakes". A THIEF IS A THIEF IS A THIEF, A LIAR A LIAR! These "skimmers make a concsious decision and put in a lot of time figuring out how to commit a crime, STEALING! Lock 'em up, post thier photo and personal infornmation in every major paper and notify every retailer in the area of thier thievery.  Make news stations report these people on the air, with photo's and home addresses.  Watch how fast this crap comes to a halt. Cut off thier hands? No! But I am all for putting a Red Brand on the foreheads of all who steal.
Aug 26, 2011 9:03AM
The solution to food server's complaints is easy to solve.  PAY THEM A LIVING WAGE !  I am tired of hearing about low tippers.  Raise the price of the food and pay accordingly.  Tips are demeaning anyway. They're not doing you a favor, that's their job, if they don't like that type of work they can quit.   Most of us worked all of our lifes and never got a tip (or wanted one). 
Aug 17, 2011 2:52PM

There are a number of ways to cheat or scam customers...I can think of a lot.  Try getting your car women really look at the tally and at 50 to 60 dollars an hour, how do you know they are telling the truth.  I thought maybe this was an article of a waitressing adding a tip after the customer signed the merchants copy.   Anyone can do that little trick.  Wow..pick on the waitresses or waiters or servers.  I think I am getting bored with MSN and the articles.  What does Kim K. want...who cares.  Lady Gaga goes drag..who cares.  Come up with something interesting please or I am going to Google.  Oh yeh...I have been waitressing for over 30 years and I never heard of that in all the restaurants I worked at and no customer ever  has memtioned this scam...Cheee.. We are hard working people waiting on my people of all kinds.  And my crabbly ones or the ones that didnt tip .. it never occurred to me to do something criminal....

Aug 26, 2011 9:05AM
Touched a personal nerve, did we Diana, (diamonddiva1954)? Reformed thief, or still at it?
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