PART-owner of Murwillumbah Cellars, Geoff Clifford, said the family business has lost more than $2000.
PART-owner of Murwillumbah Cellars, Geoff Clifford, said the family business has lost more than $2000. Tweed Daily News/Craig Sadler

M'Bah hit by card scam

MURWILLUMBAH businesses have lost thousands of dollars after the town was targeted by a gang of credit card scammers.

At least eight businesses were hit in May and June, and shop owners believe this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Geoff Clifford, who owns Murwillumbah Cellars with his wife and two daughters, is more than $2000 out of pocket after the callous thieves struck his store three times.

“The banks take no responsibility and don't reimburse you,” Mr Clifford said.

“Insurance does not cover it, so it's a direct loss to businesses.

“It's a major hit when the economy's not that good any how.”

The quick-working thieves, Mr Clifford believed, are part of an organised crime gang.

“The first card they give you is a debit card and when you pass them the Eftpos terminal they cancel the transaction and quickly key in a completely stolen credit card number. They hold their phone next to the machine so they can read the number off it.

“When you get them to sign the receipt the signature matches perfectly the original fraudulent card.

“It's all over in a matter of 15 seconds; they're that quick.”

Murwillumbah Cellars was hit on May 8 and June 13, but they did not find out about the fraud until the people whose identity was stolen got their bank statement a month later.

“It leaves a horrible taste in your mouth that someone robs you in that way,” Mr Clifford said.

“You feel livid and just think 'How could this happen?' ”

Mr Clifford was only aware of affected businesses that used St George Bank, and said locally there were eight.

“They're targeting pubs, clubs, supermarkets, bottle shops and electrical stores, and buying stuff that they can flog off.

“With us it was alcohol, and the supermarkets was cigarettes.”

Mr Clifford compared dockets with another victim, Murwillumbah Spar Supermarket owner Harry Singh, and discovered the thieves were there just three minutes later on one day.

“We've lost about $2000,” Mr Singh said.

“The girls aren't trained to catch fraudulent people, but now that the red flag has been waved they're more aware.”

The staff at Murwillumbah Cellars, directly opposite from Spar, are also more alert to the thieves.

“We have since had the manual key function removed from our machine,” Mr Clifford said.

“We only use it for a small amount of business so hopefully we won't lose that.

“Now we are also checking the card number against the receipt and on big transactions asking people for ID.”

According to the banks, Mr Clifford said, this scam has been reported along the entire east coast of Australia.

“It's huge organised crime, you just don't realise what the magnitude would be.

“Over the state they would have stolen tens of thousands of dollars.

“It's important to warn other people to be cautious of it.”

Crime prevention officer Senior Constable Andrew Eppelstun said numerous credit card scams have been reported in the area.

“When you find one of these frauds the methodology spreads very quickly, and before you know it everyone's doing it.”

Police want to speak with a man recorded on camera in the Spar Supermarket in regard to the frauds.

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