MTA discovers credit card skimmers inserted into ticket machines

Debit and credit card scams continue to plague society as schemers use old and new tricks to defraud people of their money. Another incident was uncovered at a busy railroad station in Long Island. According to a number of media reports, credit card skimmers were found attached to ticket vending machines at a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station in Baldwin, N.Y.

Scammers target commuters

Instead of simply seeking out ATMs to attach skimmers to, the exploiters sought to target Long Island commuters who likely pay by credit instead of cash. According to the Associated Press (courtesy My Fox NY), the scam included card reading devices and miniature cameras attached to the ticket machines. The unlawful device was found during routine inspections on a number of machines.

What are skimmers?

Skimmers are devices attached on ATMs or any machine that accepts credit card for payment (i.e. gas stations and rail tickets) and capture the information from the card after it is inserted. The illicit devices are often used in combination with a camera in order to nab PINs or other information the skimmer doesn’t catch.

Skimming is an ongoing issue in an increasingly electronic-centric society. Today’s thieves have graduated beyond stealing a number off a customer’s card when they aren’t looking, instead they are swiping information digitally, often right under the noses of unsuspecting consumers.

“They are made to blend in to the ticket vending machine so that a customer wouldn’t necessarily detect anything,” LIRR Vice President of Customer Service and Public Affairs Joe Calderone told 1010 WINS, reported CBS News in New York.

A suspect is identified

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Police Department is investigating this incident, and it is being reported police have identified a suspect. The man allegedly behind the Baldwin station scheme is 35-year-old Vasile Ovidiu Haidau, who was seen tampering with one of the machines at the station, said officials. Police tried to apprehend Haidau, however, he escaped in a rental car with NY tag GKR5959. CBS News reported the car is a 2004 blue Volvo S80. The suspect, of Romania, is reportedly in possession of a revoked visa and is also suspected as being part of a larger credit card and identity theft ring in California, News 12 reported. Police say the suspect should be considered as dangerous.


MTA said it checks the machines regularly and it is believed the information on the machines at Baldwin Station had not yet been downloaded.

“We don’t believe that any customer’s identity has been compromised. According to MTA police they were able to recover the device before it was downloaded,” Calderone said.

However, rail customers who use this station’s machines are being advised to check their credit card and bank statements carefully for any unusual transactions.

The Baldwin station is located 23 miles from the busy Penn Station and many customers pass through daily. This is not the first time LIRR and Metro-North rail stations have been recently victimized by scammers inserting skimmers into ticket machines. To date, skimmers have been found not just in Long Island, but in surrounding Queens and Westchester counties, which also see high commuter traffic into Manhattan.