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Targeted debit machines thefts soar in Toronto as criminals get more sophisticated: police

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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 terminals (POS).

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

“These businesses are looking for help. They want to work with the police. We need to help them because we can't have criminals running around kicking in doors all over the city,” said Colle.

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

“They smashed glass so we had a lot of clean-up. We lost our point of sale terminals and there were forced refunds as well. You also have the issue that you then have no terminals to accept payments so that is an issue as well,” said Nathan Ladovsky, speaking on behalf of the restaurant.

Once a criminal steals a POS they issue refunds to debit and credit cards and some businesses have lost as much as $50,000. Moneris Canada, which handles payment processing for businesses, says the criminals are organized and have in-depth knowledge of refund fraud.

"It's often more sophisticated gangs who would be able to take advantage of something like this. This isn't just a smash and grab and get a refund,” said Scott Tabachnick, vice-president of communications and government relations with Moneris.

There are some steps merchants can take to try and prevent POS refund fraud such as setting refund limits, using passwords and locking up the terminals at night.

"By ensuring these terminals come with passcodes that are put on them and if they are secured, it can greatly decrease the chance that these thefts will be successful,” said Shannon Dawson, acting staff superintendent with the Toronto Police Service.

Colle is calling for more help for businesses that have been victimized from the provincial and federal governments and harsher penalties for break and enter crimes.

"When the police catch these guys they are out in five minutes. The police are doing their job but what we need are laws that treat break and enters as a serious criminal act" said Colle.

When businesses lose money to refund fraud, sometimes they're reimbursed, but sometimes they're not. Many don't want to make an insurance claim because they don't want their insurance premiums to go up. 

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