Social media has been buzzing after cellphone footage of a customer confronting a Starbucks employee, whom she believes had stolen her credit card information, has gone viral. In the video the customer, Juana Martinez, pulls into a Starbucks drive-thru. As a young woman opens the window, Martinez accuses the woman of charging $212 dollars to her credit card at a local grocery store. The girl pleads with Martinez to not get police involved and apologizes to the victim.
According to Martinez, she believed the incident occurred on New Year’s Day. Martinez went to the Bellflower Starbucks and placed an order at the drive-thru. Martinez pulled to the window and handed her card to a young woman. The woman claimed that she needed to change her receipt paper and walked into another area out of Martinez’s sight. She believes that it was when the woman jotted down or took a photo of her credit card numbers.
In an interview with a NBC affiliate, Martinez says she has since agreed to not pursue charges against the Starbucks employee, believing that the viral video was punishment enough. Starbucks’ corporate offices were notified of the incident and the girl was immediately terminated from the company.
Martinez’s story is not unique. Across the nation, there is a growing concern about devices called credit card skimmers. Credit card skimmers are small devices criminals can use to steal information stored on the magnetic strip of a credit card. That information is then programmed onto other cards, allowing criminals to steal customer’s hard earned cash without rousing suspicion. Places these devices are commonly installed include gas pumps, ATM machines, and yes, at drive-thru windows.
Though there is no evidence that a credit card skimmer was used in Martinez’s case, stories have been popping up nationwide on customers who have had their finances compromised at the drive-thru, primarily due to the growing popularity of these devices.
In 2010 a 19-year-old Zaxby’s employee was caught red handed stealing credit card information. The employee took the stolen credit card data and gave it out to other individuals, including a convicted murderer who had been serving time in a Georgia prison.
A North Fulton County, Georgia McDonald’s employee was caught by a customer using a credit card skimmer to steal her credit card information. The customer witnessed the woman pull a device out of her apron and skim her card before returning the card back to the customer. The customer immediately reported the matter to both the manager on duty and local authorities.
Another case in November of 2014, a Kansas man was charged with installing a credit card skimmer at a Taco Bell he had been employed at. The fast food employee — 32-year-old Yao Vignon Kpade — was able to rack up $2,465 on the stolen account information without rousing any suspicion.
These are just a few of the cases that have been popping up around the country. There are plenty of guides on how to identify credit card skimmers online, but none of them address skimmers that may be out of a customer’s view. To the naked eye, these devices may appear to be legitimate and a customer may not be able to instantly identify the device.
The best advice for consumers is to monitor employees and if a customer witnesses something suspicious, immediately ask to discuss the issue with a manager on duty. In a perfect world, the best option would be to only use cash when going to the drive-thru or restaurants where an employee may have to take a credit card out of the customer’s view, but since this isn’t always the most convenient option, it’s important the consumers carefully track their credit card and bank statements.