By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After a skimming device was discovered in a MetroCard vending machine in the Columbus Circle subway station, Councilman Mark Treyger renewed his call to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to take steps to safeguard all of the machines to protect straphangers from identity theft.
Treyger had requested that the MTA inspect Metrocard vending machines in the wake of the discovery of skimming devices in ticket vending machines at several Long Island Rail Road stations last year.
The skimming device that was implanted the Columbus Circle vending machine could be used to steal a customer’s credit card or debit card information, police said.
The New York Post reported that a subway rider spotted the skimming device in a MetroCard machine on the downtown No. 1 train platform on April 9. The device was equipped with a pinhole camera that could record card transactions.
It's not clear how many straphangers had their information stolen before the device was discovered.
The MTA suggested that all riders who purchased a MetroCard via that vending machine check their bank accounts and credit cards for any signs of fraud.
Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) said that if crooks can tamper with MetroCard machines, they could do the same with muni-meters. He is calling in the MTA to inspect Metrocard machines and wants the Department of Transportation (DOT) to check parking meters.
“As I said months ago, the MTA and other agencies including the DOT must take steps to ensure that the public is not left vulnerable to identify theft. It is clear that criminals are using more creative and advanced ways to gain valuable personal banking information from unsuspecting residents and that this problem is becoming more and more prevalent in our city,” Treyger said.
Treyger is calling for a full review of the procedures currently in place for the MTA, DOT and other agencies to prevent identity theft. Treyger said the steps should include reviewing procedures for routinely inspecting machines for tampering, posting warnings on the machines alerting customers to take precautions against fraud, informing customers when there has been a security breach impacting their credit cards and increasing security around all machines to deter criminal activity
“Identity theft is an incredibly serious crime that can take years for a victim to resolve. Right now, the reality is that customers are open to being victimized while using government-owned machines,” Treyger said.
Kevin Ortiz, deputy director for external communication for the MTA, said the agency is already taking steps to address the situation.
“Station employees check MetroCard vending machines once on each tour of duty. The check may be conducted by a station cleaner, who has the responsibility to dust and remove litter and graffiti from the machines; the station agent and in most cases, station supervisors. After the incident that was discovered at 59th Street, we have requested that all station employees provide added levels of observation and scrutiny. We are also commencing a public information instructing customers on what to look for,” Ortiz wrote in an email to the Brooklyn Eagle.