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Nanaimo restaurant loses hundreds after man swipes debit machine on camera


A restaurant owner in Nanaimo, B.C., is sending out a warning about a debit "skimming" attack it fell prey to on Sunday evening.

The co-owner and manager of MGM Restaurant, which has been in operation since 1985, claims a customer not only stole their debit and credit machine pin pad, but he also gave himself numerous refunds using the machine.

"We were never meant to notice this, I don't think," said co-owner Tricia Samaroo.

"It was meant to be a very smooth transaction where he came in, quietly took the pin pad, we were never supposed to be aware," she said.

Samaroo says the restaurant has video surveillance of the incident, which occurred at closing time on Sunday night.

A man approached staff at the MGM Restaurant pleading for them to serve him a meal.

He ended up with two poutines to go, but during the transaction the restaurant owner claims he stole their pin pad.

The alleged thief is shown grabbing the pin pad on surveillance camera. (MGM Restaurant)"We often help people at the front door," said Samaroo.

"They're all, 'The restaurants are closed, we're hungry, can you serve us?' And we find a way to come up with something that we can serve them with the kitchen being closed," she said.

Staff say the man sat at a booth close to where the pin pad was located while they fixed up the poutine. Then he struck while they were distracted.

"He got up and he went right to the pin pad, put it underneath his jacket, wrapped his jacket around it, and then peered to make sure we were out of sight. Then he left," she says.

They're not sure if his intent was to also replace the terminal with a skimming device attached, but they believe their surveillance camera caught him using the pin pad to send customer rebates to his own debit cards.

"He did end up taking money from our bank account through the pin pad by using the refund function over and over again," said Samaroo.


Police are investigating and are looking for the man as well as his red or burgundy vehicle, which may be a Dodge Avenger.

"He's done his research, he's done it before, he's scouted it out, so obviously he realizes the pin pad is probably being left unattended," said Nanaimo RCMP Const. Gary O'Brien.

The man's vehicle is shown. (MGM Restaurant/Facebook)RCMP say it serves as a teaching moment to other merchants to be more protective of their transaction terminals.

"Businesses have to be aware," said O'Brien. "Putting [pin pad machines] in a secure case would stop that."

The restaurant's cameras recorded the man returning in the early hours of Monday morning trying to use the terminals again, this time accompanied by a second individual wearing a suit.

The man used cash for his meal on Monday, but the restaurant is still out hundreds in lost revenue and the pin pad he allegedly swiped was never returned.

Samaroo has posted the man's photo to social media, now adding crime fighting to her regular duties.

"The police are so busy and they're so understaffed, right?" she said. "I really appreciate their time but I know that they're going to take the time that they're going to take, and so I'm just going to do what I need to do on my end." Top Stories

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