Warning after pin numbers targeted

A person enters their pin number unaware someone is watching. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
A person enters their pin number unaware someone is watching. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Shoulder-surfing ''mongrels'' have prompted a warning from police.

Recent reports of shoulder surfing - where offenders watch a person enter their eftpos pin number - are on the rise across Otago and Southland.

That increase has prompted a warning from Senior Sergeant Dave Scott, of the Dunedin-based Southern District Command Centre.

He said offenders appeared to be working in pairs.

Once the pin number had been obtained, the victim would be followed and later distracted by an offender while the other would enter their property to steal the card.

While police would not say whether the offenders were an organised group, or where the offending had taken place, he confirmed police had ''alerted local supermarkets'' about the practice.

''Inquiries are on going and we are certainly trying to resolve it.''

He urged card users to always shield the key pad when inputting their pin number.

''We want to put out a general warning for people to be aware and take some personal responsibility ... There are mongrels out there, so you need to make it as difficult as possible for them to ply their trade.''

A spokeswoman for Foodstuffs, which owns Pak'n Save, New World and Four Square stores, said consumers needed to take care when inputting their pin to ensure others could not see the numbers and use that information to their advantage.

A Countdown spokeswoman confirmed police had contacted the company about the incidents, and ''we'll ensure our teams are aware of this''.


Keypad shields needed

I am not surprised that shoulder surfing is so easy to do in Supermarkets when you have the EFTPOS keypad at chest height and fully exposed to all and sundry. A simple and cheap piece of opaque plastic around both sides and the top of the keypad would go a long way towards preventing this theft. Some ATMs have this plastic added and many EFTPOS keypads have the capability to have it installed but typically the shield is an optional extra from the supplier.

Shops and other EFTPOS providers should be looking at the security aspect so that customers feel safe using their services. Install keypad shields and don't bolt the keypad to a chunk of metal at chest high so that there is no ability to move the keypad to a more secure location for PIN entry.

n.b. The correct use of PIN excludes adding "number" after the acronym. 

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