U.S. law enforcement agencies have a powerful new tool at their disposal: The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s Electronic Recovery and Access to Data (ERAD) Prepaid Card Reader
During arrests of criminal couriers, law enforcement officers rarely find bundles of cash wrapped in rubber bands anymore. Instead, they find stacks of plastic cards — bank credit and debit cards, retail gift cards, library cards, hotel card keys, even magnetic-striped Metrorail cards — that have been turned into prepaid cards.
A small, handheld device using wireless connectivity, the ERAD Prepaid Card reader enables law enforcement officers in the field to check the balance of cards. This information allows them to put a temporary hold on the linked funds until a full investigation can be completed. Using the ERAD Prepaid Card Reader, law enforcement officials have successfully seized or recovered suspicious cards loaded with approximately $10 million in fraudulent funds.
“We’re able to identify stolen credit cards and mag strip information, and we’re able to seize cash on the side of the road that is being extorted in prepaid debit cards,” said Sgt. Ron Hain of the Kane County (Illinois) Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Unit. “In 2015, we started to see prepaid debit cards in conjunction with credit cards scams, as well as drug smugglers also possessing the prepaid debit cards. ERAD has been able to help us decipher each one of those crimes.” Hain is one of many law enforcement officials successfully using the ERAD. Hear what others had to say.
“When we found out about the need for this technology from one of our DHS agency partners, we worked to develop the technology necessary to address this critical issue” explained FRG Program Manager Bill Deso. “They were seeing large numbers of prepaid cards during the performance of their duties, but had no way to check the balances on the cards. The ERAD Prepaid Card Reader now provides law enforcement personnel with this capability.”
FRG transitioned the card reader to the commercial market, and it is now available for law enforcement use. For more information, read the original ERAD snapshot from August 2015.