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Cultus café theft prompts warning to other merchants

A business owner at Cultus Lake says a thief stole the PIN pad from the Vanilla Cafe, only hours after it was newly installed. - submitted
A business owner at Cultus Lake says a thief stole the PIN pad from the Vanilla Cafe, only hours after it was newly installed.
— image credit: submitted

A business owner in Cultus Lake wants other merchants to watch out after his daughter's business, Cafe Vanilla, was hit by a thief.

"Enough is enough," said Najib Abunnadi, owner of Beethoven's Pizza. He's talking about a recent PIN pad theft, valued at about $600.

A man walked in to Cafe Vanilla, just before 7 p.m on June 22, next door to his pizza restaurant.

While the clerk had her back turned to scoop the ice cream cone he ordered, he allegedly dragged the unit into his hoodie pocket.

The base was left on the counter after the incident. The wireless unit was gone.

The business owner captured the incident on video, and later turned it over to police.

"Staff came running to me to say the machine had just been stolen. I thought it was a joke. When they realized half a minute later that it was gone, the guy was just outside eating his ice cream like nothing happened."

Adding insult to injury, the brand-new wireless PIN pad unit had just been installed — hours before it was stolen.

"I've never seen the police respond to a call that fast on a Saturday," Abunnadi said. "I think they take high-tech theft like this very seriously."

He said he took action in recent years, installing surveillance equipment at both businesses. His pizza business has suffered break-ins of all kinds, including seven incidents of theft in one two-month period.

"With this incident, the guy was handed the cone, he said thank you and walked out eating his ice cream."

They couldn't identify which individual actually took the unit until they reviewed the video.

Chilliwack RCMP officials say that wireless PIN pads do not store any personal or transaction data, and once called in to Interac, the unit is shut down. Some need a base unit to connect to, and others don't.

"The only benefit I see of stealing the PIN pad, in the light of the above information, would be to try to sell it, tamper with it, or break it to analyze it," said Cpl. Len vanNieuwenhuizen.

If anyone tries to process a transaction on a stolen unit, for example the business account it was stolen from would get credited.

A PIN pad that had been tampered with, however, could allow for the collection of personal or payment data if it was reinstalled in a business environment by collecting the magnetic stripe information and PIN.

"I am unaware of chip data collection methods but I'm sure they exist," he added.

Abunnadi says he doesn't feel targeted, but he's still annoyed that his daughters were ripped off. The suspect could be someone who's involved with credit card fraud.

"I want other merchants to be aware of this type of theft of technology," he said.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

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