Over the past few weeks, many friends and neighbours (including myself) have had their bank cards compromised, regardless of institution.
According to RCMP reports, investigators believe that cards reproduced using card and PIN numbers obtained in Whistler were used to make purchases and/or withdrawals in Vancouver, West Vancouver and Richmond.
It's ironic that the Canadian government has earmarked $1 billion to combat security during the 2010 Olympics, yet one individual can come close to shutting down BC's premier resort simply by using a card skimming machine.
Luckily, I received a call from Vancity on the Victoria Day holiday letting me know that my debit card had been cancelled. They had good reason to believe that my account had been compromised at a local business. In my case, the closest Vancity branch is located in West Vancouver (a 2-hour drive away), leaving me with no access to cash for several days.
The effects were so far reaching, that on one particular day, debit card transactions in Whistler came to a near standstill. Many people only learned about their frozen accounts as they tried to pay for purchases.
One local resident was away on a fishing trip in remote BC and learned about the scam when he tried to purchase gas. He was shocked to learn that his bank account had been drained of thousands of dollars and managed to panhandle $25 - just enough money to get him home.
According to the Whistler RCMP, the scam was centred around Quizno's and Subway.
I have never eaten at either Quizno's or Subway.
However, the unofficial "rumour" circulating around town, puts the epicenter of the scam to Whistler's one-and-only gas station. That makes more sense. Anyone who drives a car in Whistler has one choice when it comes to fueling up (with the exception of Mons cardlock).
Thanks to B.C's new pay-before-you-pump legislation (i.e. Grant's Law) all motorists are now required to pre-pay before pumping gas. With the majority of motorists paying by either debit or Visa, this location virtually guarantees that the fraudsters' nets gather as many card numbers and PINs as possible.
Luckily the banks were quick to act and the number of people impacted was kept to a minimum. The alleged suspect will appear in BC court on June 19.
In the meantime, I'll be making as many purchases as possible using cold, hard cash.
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