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Fraud at Barnes & Noble: No suspects named

As identify theft and fraud becomes more sophisticated, law enforcement must follow suit. For example, at Barnes & Noble (B & N), the country's largest bookseller, devices that record users' pin numbers have been altered, allowing others to harvest those numbers.

The chain reported that this had occurred in 63 of its stores, including stores in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The company said it was working with federal authorities to trace the source of the problem.

B & N stated that only one device per store was altered. However, given the volume of sales at each store, even this could provide significant amounts of data to those interested in obtaining the pin numbers of B & N customers. The devices, known as PIN pads, were disconnected on September 14 after the problem was discovered.

In a recent press release, B & N said that bugs were planted in the devices that allowed the capture of PIN and credit card numbers. It was not known how long the bugs were in place before being discovered. Nor is it known how the fraud was perpetrated.

Customers at B & N stores will now need to ask cashiers to swipe credit and debit cards on readers connected to cash registers rather than swiping the cards themselves.

Such frauds are not unique to Barnes & Noble. One of the largest data harvesting schemes involved 45 million credit and debit cards used at TJX Cos., the parent company of T.J. Maxx and Marshall's.

Source: WSJ Online, "B&N: PIN pad tampering was 'sophisticated' crime," Oct, 24, 2012.

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