Card-scam gang convenience stores midlands

A gang of card scammers is targeting unsuspecting convenience stores across the UK again, with shops in the Midlands and north-west England being its latest victims.

The gang of four men are yet to be caught, despite being spotted committing the same scam various times across a two-year period.

Victims told betterRetailing the fraudsters use stolen bank cards for high-value products, but instead of entering a four-digit PIN, enter a 16-digit number to activate a ‘cardholder not present’ function. The money initially appears to go through, but the payment eventually bounces, leaving the retailer out of pocket and with fees to pay for the failed transaction.

The gang has also been said to use distraction tactics, such as using one man to speak to a member of staff while another enters the 16 digits into the card terminal.

Retailers who have fallen victim to the scam have described the men as tall, wearing hoodies with the logo of French football team Paris St Germain and having “scraggly hair”. They also have facial hair.

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Kesser Mahmood, of Da Shop in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport, was targeted by the gang on 7 March at around 10pm.

When asked to describe the incident, he told Retail Express: “They came into the shop and picked up a few bottles of Au Vodka and some toiletries. I became suspicious when they came to the till, picked up the card terminal and started spending ages putting the PIN in. I realised what they were doing and immediately put the stock behind the till.

“They became aggressive, ran out of the shop and ended up speeding off in a black hatchback car. I would have lost £250-worth of stock if I was unable to catch on to what they were doing.

“They’re scammers because they’ve been targeting shops up and down the country. These aren’t untargeted attempts of theft.”

Mahmood added that retailers can contact their card merchants to disable the ‘cardholder not present’ function to stop them from being caught out.

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Another victim of the gang, who asked not to be named, said: “They targeted my store on 13 March and it cost me £2,000-worth of alcohol. The police are yet to do something, even though they said they’d come to check the CCTV footage.

“I’ve advised the staff not to process card transactions of more than £50 from now on.

“We have a post office branch, so any customer who wishes to make such a transaction will be told to withdraw cash for the payment instead.”

betterRetailing understands sightings of the gang have been circulating in retailer WhatsApp conversations over the past month. Symbol group SimplyFresh has also sent warnings of the gang to its retailers in a newsletter.

Samantha Coldbeck, of Premier Wharfedale in Hull, was targeted in May 2021, when £727.46-worth of spirits were stolen from her store. “They’ve never stopped being active and they acted really cocky when they came into my shop,” she said.

“They were served six times over a 15-minute period. The actual cost to us was £1,454.92 when you combine the value of the stolen stock and the fees the bank ended up reclaiming.

“After it happened, we began advising staff on what to do to prevent anything similar happening in the future.

“Staff were told under no circumstances that stock should be handed to anyone if they are seen to be entering a 16-digit number into the card terminal because we are not protected if a fraudulent transaction is cleared.

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“The best advice I can give to retailers is to tell their staff to speak to them if they are ever in doubt when such a transaction happens.”

Premier retailer Joey Duhra, who fell victim to a similar scam by a different gang, said: “We’re more vigilant with high-value transactions now. It’s easy to get excited by someone spending several hundreds of pounds on alcohol.”

When asked to comment about any sightings of the gang in the Midlands, West Midlands Police declined to comment.

Humberside Police have urged anyone with information relating to the gang to come forward.

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