Police say hundreds of people in the Halifax area have lost money to scammers who use doctored debit-card readers to steal your bank card information.


Yesterday, they arrested three people who they believe stole two bank-card machines from stores in Halifax and Dartmouth Tuesday night.


At 1:20 and 5:40 p.m., suspects hit the Bentley stores in Park Lane and Scotia Square, distracting the staff and switching keypads. Staff figured out their machine had been switched when they couldn’t get it to work.


A few hours later, at 9:22 p.m., staff at the Staples on Woodlawn Road in Dartmouth discovered their Interac keypad was missing after two suspects had left the store.


Yesterday morning, security at Scotia Square saw the suspects from the night before, and called police. So did security at Park Lane, where police arrested three people.

No charges have been laid yet.

Halifax Regional Police Const. Jeff Carr said scammers, usually from outside the province, come to town, swipe the machines from stores, replace them with doctored ones, and come back in a week or two to pick up the doctored keypads.

“Whoever uses the PIN pad has had their information compromised. They make a dummy card, and it’s just like you’re walking up to a bank machine,” Carr said.

Usually, the thieves will then take out the maximum daily cash limit on their victims’ accounts. Carr said people should change their bank card PINs regularly to avoid falling victim to bank-card skimmers, but most don’t do it.

If it happens to you, Carr said, call your bank and they’ll reimburse you.

He said police advise businesses to attach their PIN readers to a post or a counter so they’re not easily stolen.