Sudbury Farms self-checkout/ Credit: Needham Observer

Needham police are working with units in a handful of nearby communities as they investigate the recent discoveries of skimming devices attached to credit card readers at Sudbury Farms in Needham and other grocery stores owned by Roche Bros. Criminals secretly add the electronic devices to retail checkout stations to steal credit card information from store customers when they swipe their cards. 

Although the devices were installed, they appear to have been discovered before customers were affected. So far, “There’s no known evidence of anyone’s credit card information having been compromised,” Needham police Deputy Chief Chris Baker said Wednesday. The police have not shared how the criminals got access to the checkout stations or whether any suspects have been identified.

A skimmer attaches to a credit card pin pad “and is thin enough that it’s difficult to see,” Baker said. The devices steal information from the magnetic strip on the back of a credit card, not a card inserted into a chip reader, so the thieves may block the chip reader, increasing the likelihood that a card will be swiped. With the stolen information, thieves could rack up charges on the card or even drain a victim’s bank account, authorities say.

The skimmers were first found at the Sudbury Farms in Sudbury on Dec. 24, after an employee noticed an “inconsistency” in one of the self-checkout lanes, according to Roche Bros. Skimmers were found attached to two self-service pin pads.

Subsequent checks turned up skimmers at Sudbury Farms in Needham, as well as Roche Bros. supermarkets in Wellesley, Natick and Cambridge, and at a company-owned Brothers Marketplace in Weston, the company said. All were attached to pin pads in self-checkout lanes.

Needham police are collaborating with investigators in all of those communities, Baker said Wednesday. The U.S. Secret Service is assisting them, he said.

Roche Bros. has “strong policies” in place to guard against such incidents, including multiple daily security checks of all registers in all its markets, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Barner said in a statement last week.

“We have updated training with our store teams in terms of what to look for,” company spokeswoman Tristen Kendall said Wednesday. “We have talked to a number of our customers, and none have noticed any issues with their cards.”

In recent months, skimmers have also been found at Market Basket stores in Chelsea, Reading, Somerville, Haverhill and in Concord, N.H., authorities said, as well as at a Walmart in Concord, N.H..

“This has been going on for a long time,” Baker said. “It’s not exclusive to Roche Bros. — they do this at gas stations, ATMs. The people doing this are pretty savvy.”

The State Police Cyber Crime unit is not involved in the investigation at this time, Trooper Brandon Knox said Tuesday. “It’s up to local police, but if they reach out for help that could change,” he said.

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