Handheld card reader helps police track criminals

Handheld card reader helps police track criminals' cash

Prepaid credit cards are popular among criminals who use them to store and transport large amounts of money, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Until recently, when law enforcement seized those cards, they had no way to check the balance.

To solve that problem, the DHS Department of Science and Technology’s First Responder Group developed a card reader that lets officers view the data on the card and print it so that it is admissible in court. The Electronic Recovery and Access to Data (ERAD) Prepaid Card Reader uses wireless connectivity to allow police officers in the field “read the balance on a card and make decisions on how to process those cards,” according to an informational video. Law enforcement can identify suspicious prepaid cards and put a temporary hold on the linked funds until a full investigation can be completed.

As of November 2015, close to $2 million has been seized by state and local law enforcement agencies using the ERAD device, DHS officials said.

“We’re able to identify stolen credit cards and mag strip information, and we’re able to seize cash on the side of the road that is being extorted in prepaid debit cards,” said Sgt. Ron Hain of the Kane County, Illinois, Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Unit. “If we found that somebody, through an unlawful act, purchased a large amount of closed loop gift cards from stores -- we’re able to freeze that cash as well.”

“In 2015, we started to see prepaid debit cards in conjunction with credit cards scams, as well as drug smugglers also possessing the prepaid debit cards,” Hain said. “ERAD has been able to help us decipher each one of those crimes.”

The card reader is now available for law enforcement use.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.


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