2013 saw plenty of big news for the aluminum industry. As we gear up for significant debuts at the Detroit Auto Show in a few weeks, let’s usher in the turn of the calendar with something more along the lines of the absurd. That’s right, it’s time to beware of aluminum — foil, no less — as a low-tech means of stealing candy and cigarettes from gas stations.
How does that work? The FBI wants you to know, via Businessweek:
Here’s how the theft goes down. First, someone climbs onto the roof of a store and uses aluminum foil to block the satellite antenna that the store uses to receive data from credit card companies to authorize sales—a gadget called a feed horn that looks like this.
With the signal blocked, stores can’t validate credit and debit card transactions. That opens the door, so to speak, for bandits to enter the store, load up their carts with electronics or cigarettes, and pay with stolen credit cards. Retailers often permit sales even if the link with the credit card company is down, figuring the transactions will go through once the connection is back up.
When contacted on Friday, FBI spokeswoman Whitney Malkin said no one was available to answer questions about the scheme.
The agency has blamed “African criminal enterprises” for the crimes. The stolen loot is “taken to New York, where it may be sold at pawn shops or exported to Africa,” the FBI’s Mollie Halpern explains in this podcast (yes, podcast) about the scam.
The effectiveness of this technique sounds a bit dodgy, but who knows? While we don’t recommend scaling buildings to their satellite antennas with rolls of aluminum foil, we have to admit that part of us is curious to see if it actually works!