Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh shops targeted by card fraudsters

Imogen Douglas
Image caption Imogen Douglas said children's show shop Maddie & Marks lost £6,000

Detectives are warning businesses to be vigilant after a series of sophisticated card machine frauds in Edinburgh.

Since Saturday, £32,000 has been stolen in eight incidents in the city centre and the Haymarket and Blackhall areas.

One children's shoe shop lost £6,000 after the hand-held card machine was used to issue three separate refunds.

The two suspects are black, aged 20-30, of slim build, about 5ft 8in, with English accents.

On one occasion they were in the company of two other men and, on another, they were joined by a mixed-race woman with a London accent.

Imogen Douglas, of Maddie & Marks, told BBC Scotland how the children's shoe shop was targeted.

'Really brutal'

She said: "They started asking and trying different shoes and wanting to ask questions about the sizes.

"When it came to the purchase they put the transaction through but it kept getting declined.

"Basically they made three refunds on the card terminal, each of £2,000.

"So in total we lost £6,000 in the space of about a minute."

Ms Douglas believes the fraudsters are targeting small, independent retailers which use card machines that are not connected to a till.

She added: "It is really brutal.

"At the moment I don't have £6,000 in the bank account for them to take."

Image caption Det Insp Gordon Burns has urged shop staff to keep control of the hand-held card machine

Det Insp Gordon Burns warned that the problem was an increasing trend and had been enabled by more sophisticated payment technology.

He said: "These fraudsters tend to target small businesses, as they typically have less staff than major retailers.

"One person takes control of the card machine, and another tries to distract staff while their accomplice manipulates this and refunds a substantial amount of money onto their card.

"Distraction techniques are not a new phenomenon."

The officer is encouraging sales assistants to guard against the practice.

He added: "I'd urge staff to treat the terminal like the till - always ensure you are in control of the transaction and have sight of the device.

"Be wary if someone is taking longer than five to 10 seconds to type in their PIN, of if someone is else is trying to get your attention during this time."

Det Insp Burns said businesses could install additional security measures on these devices to prevent refunds being given without specific authorisation.