Back in the days before mobile and countertop card terminals, sketchy store clerks and restaurant serving staff had a few different ways to steal your card details…
One approach was to simply read the details from the card and write them down. Another was to photograph them. Most efficient of all was to make an extra impression on the old roller machines.
None of these methods are practical now that we generally don’t let cards out of our sight, but CNET reports that one Japanese store clerk had a secret weapon: a photographic memory.
In Japan, a store clerk has stolen credit card information the old fashioned way: Looking at and memorizing the details of over 1,300 customers, according to local news.
The 34-year-old clerk worked at a mall in Koto City, near Tokyo. Police allege he memorized the 16-digit credit card number, security code, and expiry date of customers during the small period of time it takes to complete a purchase transaction.
He didn’t have to memorize them for long: He transferred the details to a notebook once the customer had left.
Unfortunately for the clerk, his amazing memory doesn’t appear to have been matched by his intellect. He was caught after using stolen card details to have two bags delivered to his own address, and police then found the notebook containing the card details of the 1,300 victims.
The Apple Card is safe against this tactic, having no visible card details. It does remain vulnerable to magnetic card skimming — an approach used by more sophisticated thieves who piggyback their own reader to the store payment terminal, so each swipe-copies the information to their own device as well as to the payment terminal. Most transactions these days, however, are either contactless or involve only partially inserting the card into a chip reader.