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Police: Suspect Sought After Card Skimmers Found At LIRR Ticket Machines

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BALDWIN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Police are looking for a suspect after credit card reading devices were found at ticket machines at a Long Island Rail Road station in Baldwin.

Workers found the card skimmers and tiny hidden cameras last week during a routine inspection, police said.

Skimmers steal information from the magnetic strip on credit and debit cards. Then, the tiny cameras record pin numbers as people punch them in.

“They are made to blend in to the ticket vending machine so that a customer wouldn’t necessarily detect anything,” LIRR Vice President of Customer Service and Public Affairs Joe Calderone told 1010 WINS.

On Monday, MTA police said a man who has been identified as Vasile Ovidiu Haidau, 35, was seen tampering with a ticket machine at the Baldwin station.

When officers tried to stop him, police said he took off. He was last seen driving west on Sunrise Highway in a 2004 blue Volvo S80 rental car with NY plates GKR5959.

Haidau is a Romanian national who is believed to be part of a credit card and identity-theft ring whose members were previously arrested in California in 2013, police said.

He has a revoked visa and is known to travel with another white man in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Long Island, police said. Haidau is not known to carry weapons, but police said he should be considered dangerous.

Vasile Ovidiu Haidau/2004 blue Volvo S80 with NY plates GXR5959. (credit: MTA Police)

Vasile Ovidiu Haidau/2004 blue Volvo S80 with NY plates GXR5959. (credit: MTA Police)

News of the possible breach was worrying to many LIRR customers.

“I’m very concerned,” commuter Armando Polanco told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang. “I use that machine with my credit card. I used it last month, so I have to check my bills, and I know other people, it’s the same thing. It’s just bad.”

“I’m concerned all that information is so easy to take away,” said passenger Dina Wilson.

“I’m terrified because I used this constantly, every week,” said commuter Christina Arriaga.

A man uses a ticket machine at a Long Island Rail Road station. (credit: CBS 2)

A man uses a ticket machine at a Long Island Rail Road station. (credit: CBS 2)

The MTA said workers check ticket machines for skimming devices regularly and said police have determined that the skimmers placed on the machines in Baldwin had not been able to download any customers’ information, CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported.

“We don’t believe that any customer’s identity has been compromised. According to MTA police they were able to recover the device before it was downloaded,” LIRR Vice President, Joe Calderone said.

While they don’t believe any passengers’ credit or debit information has been compromised, authorities are still advising customers to check with their banks or credit card companies for unusual activity.

The MTA has been targeted before.

In November of last year, authorities said four Romanian nationals were arrested for allegedly using skimming devices on ticket machines at LIRR and Metro-North train stations.

The MTA said skimmers and cameras were removed from machines in Queens, Westchester and Long Island.

Calderone recommended that customers take precautions at vending machines.

“If you’re at a ticket vending machine, or an ATM for that matter, it’s always a good idea to cover using your hand … as you’re entering your PIN,” he told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “Because in order to do identity theft in the type of devices that they’re using, they need both your debit card information and your PIN number.”

The MTA has urged all LIRR customers who use the machines to check over bank and credit card accounts to make sure there is no suspicious activity.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call 516-222-6501 or 718-361-2201.

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