Chefs and restaurant owners want to know how to prevent customers' identity theft, so the speaker at the August 2007 meeting of the Myrtle Beach chapter of the American Culinary Federation was Jay Shavitz of Infinity Computer Systems. He explained how credit card information theft can occur at restaurants.
It's called credit card skimming, he said, and some restaurant servers are recruited by crime rings. The bad guys give the servers pocket-size "skimmers." When the server gets a credit card and takes it to swipe in the restaurant's credit card terminal, he also gives the card a quick swipe through the skimmer. The skimmer gets the card's information off its magnetic strip and stores it.
"The skimmers can hold information from 200 to 300 credit cards," Jay said, "and then they download the information on their computers at home and send it out of the country."
Restaurants account for about 90 percent of all credit card skimming, he said, because a restaurant is just about the only environment where upon payment the credit cards are removed from customers' views.
Jay then explained how the hand-held system his company sells can be used to take orders tableside (servers can even write on the mini-computer's screen), and it doubles as a portable credit card terminal. That way the credit card is never out of the customer's view. The units' batteries are good for about nine hours, so one unit can get through three shifts on two batteries. It's also possible to have a belt-size printer so customer receipts can be printed on the spot.