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Targeted debit machine thefts soar in Toronto as criminals become more sophisticated, police say

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Toronto police said there has been a 40 per cent increase in break and enter crimes over the past six months, with thieves targeting small businesses to steal point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

Toronto Deputy Mayor Mike Colle held a summit on Friday to address the issue, inviting policepayment provider services and small businesses that have been victimized.

“These businesses are looking for help. They want to work with the police. We have to help them because we can’t have criminals breaking down doors all over the city,” Colle said.

More than 300 small businesses had their terminals stolen last year and it happened twice at the United Bakers Dairy restaurant in Toronto.

“They broke glass, so we had to do a lot of cleanup. We lost our point of sale terminals and there were also forced refunds. You also have the problem of not having terminals to accept payments, which is also a problem,” said Nathan Ladovsky, speaking on behalf of the restaurant.

Once a criminal robs an outlet, they issue refunds on debit and credit cards and some businesses have lost up to $50,000. Moneris Canada, which handles payment processing for businesses, says criminals are organized and have extensive knowledge of refund fraud.

“It’s often more sophisticated gangs that could benefit from something like this. It’s not just about grabbing and getting a refund,” said Scott Tabachnick, vice president of communications and government relations at Moneris.

There are steps merchants can take to try to prevent point-of-sale redemption fraud, such as setting redemption limits, using passwords, and locking terminals at night.

“Ensuring that these terminals have passcodes and are secure can significantly reduce the chances of these thefts being successful,” said Shannon Dawson, Acting Superintendent of the Toronto Police Service.

Colle is calling for more help for businesses that have been victimized by the provincial and federal governments and tougher penalties for break-ins.

“When the police catch these guys, they’re released after five minutes. The police are doing their job, but what we need are laws that treat break-ins as a serious criminal act,” Colle said .

When companies lose money due to fraud, they are sometimes reimbursed, but sometimes not. Many don’t want to make an insurance claim because they don’t want their insurance premiums to increase.

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