Safeway denies bank card skimming at its Menlo Park stores


Safeway Inc. is denying reports that incidents of bank card skimming may have occurred at stores in Menlo Park.

KPIX-TV (Channel 5) has been reporting that Safeway is investigating card-skimming incidents in the Bay Area, citing a "Krebs on Security" blog post that says: "In California, banks there strongly suspect Safeway locations in Castro Valley and Menlo Park may also have been hit."

Safeway spokesperson Wendy Gutshall, said those reports "regarding stores in Castro Valley and Menlo Park are inaccurate."

Two skimmers were discovered at Safeway locations in Dublin and Walnut Creek in September, during routine inspections, she said, but no credit or debit card data was compromised. "No skimmers have been discovered since that time," she said.

Nicole Acker, spokesperson for the Menlo Park Police Department, said that there have been no cases reported involving card skimmers in Menlo Park Safeway stores.

Card skimmers vary in technological capabilities, but usually include some version of a face plate to cover ATMs or other card-swipe pinpads, or a handheld card reader, enabling potential thieves to gain access to the card information on the magnetic stripe of debit or credit cards. They also require some way to find out cardholders' PIN numbers, which can be done by having observers peek over shoulders as PINs are being entered or by installing a hidden pinhole camera on the machine, pointing at the pinpad. Card skimmers have reportedly been found on automated movie rental kiosks like Redbox and are said to be used most frequently at restaurants, bars and gas stations.

Ms. Gutshall said that Safeway customers who have concerns about the Safeway card skimming reports should review their bank activity during September and October or contact their cardholder or bank directly.

Other recommended measures are to cover the keypad with your hand even if you are alone at a pinpad or ATM and to review your bank and card statements on a regular basis.

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Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 19, 2015 at 9:49 am

And if you believe the antique pin pads at Safeway's self checkouts are secure, I have some lovely swampland in Florida for sale.

This is why the only sensible options are credit and cash.

5 people like this
Posted by Andrew
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 19, 2015 at 11:35 am

Yeah, so over a year ago, my credit card was skimmed at the Menlo Park Safeway when I used the self-checkout lane on what I presume is one of the busiest business days for Safeway each year: Super Bowl Saturday (or maybe it was Super Bowl Sunday. It's been a bit.) Why do I know this was what happened? Because 1) I was using my company's corporate card, which I have never used at Safeway before or since. 2) The subsequent fraudulent charges on my corporate card were only for large bulk purchases of easily flippable consumer goods (diapers, etc.) at a Safeway in El Cerrito. (I know this because my corporate card is linked into an expense reporting system that for select large vendors, such as Safeway, Amazon, and others, can show you purchase statements that include per-item details. Fancy stuff!)

Props to the thieves for their precision/creativity by only replaying their purchases at another Safeway store. If this had been my personal card, I would likely have not noticed, because I would whiz by those listings as "yup, sure, I shop at Safeway" and probably wouldn't have noticed it was for a Safeway far away from where I live and would never visit. I only noticed because I barely use my corporate card, and I was filing expense reports for a trip I made to Switzerland (thankfully, at exactly the same time as the El Cerrito diaper purchases.. further establishing that I was not the purchaser), I saw several $500+ diaper purchases on my corporate card that I needed to submit fraud claims for.

Ok, now I'll turn on the sarcasm, just for this last sentence. Wendy Gutshall, Safeway spokesperson.. I'm glad you couldn't possibly fathom that your stores were hit by thieves.. way to bury your head in the sand!
-Andrew W, Menlo Park resident (Hoover St)

3 people like this
Posted by Andrew
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 19, 2015 at 11:38 am

..oh also, I called up Safeway corporate to report the incident, back when it happened. So Wendy is either lying or there's a case of left hand/right hand not knowing what they're doing. Either is sad. -Andrew

6 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 19, 2015 at 12:22 pm

I think the anecdotal evidence from this website is worth noting on top of the above user's comment: Web Link

What Safeway's denial makes clear to me is that they know less about the security of their own stores than local banks and their own customers.

2 people like this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 19, 2015 at 11:34 pm

Thanks so much for sharing your experience with the Menlo Park Safeway. So glad it wasn't your personal credit card that got skimmed.

Thank you very much for that link. It was very informative. One commenter had had his or her card skimmed at the Menlo Park Safeway 4 times in 3 months! Shame on Safeway for ignoring that person's e-mail!

To all:
I will never shop at any Safeway ever again. Not worth the risk.
Also: my bank told me they have some very complex programs to detect fraud.

Almanac :
Thanks for reporting this, and, most of all, thank you very much for posting and leaving up Andrew’s and Bob’s comments. We need and deserve to know what is going on in local businesses, both good and bad. Sunlight is a very good disinfectant.

Like this comment
Posted by Ron
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 20, 2015 at 10:25 am

Safeway should adopt Apple Pay, which is more secure

Like this comment
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 20, 2015 at 10:37 am

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

I always avoid the self-checkout lines at Safeway, I don't want to give bean counters in corporate any more reason to have fewer human checkers. It makes sense the self-checkouts would be more vulnerable to having a skimmer installed, so now I have two good reasons to avoid the self-checkout lines.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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