Beware of new, hi-tech method to steal PIN

Dec 5, 2013 by Capt. John Wampler

Following a recent experience of theft in France, I would like to point out to your readers a new spin on credit card fraud with PIN.

First the incident: I bought my SNCF ticket from-to Monaco at the machine in the Antibes station, using a European “Chip and PIN”-protected card (while checking no one was watching me) and got on the train. On arrival in Monaco, I found my card-holder/money clip with four cards and 200 euros missing (picked from a front pocket, no less). I started the usual card-blocking process, only to find that the thieves had got the PIN for the card I used for that ticket and thus far had 1,800 euros in cash and visited the Hugo Boss store.

Back in Antibes for the police report, I was asked by the SNCF security guard (and later the officer of the Police Nationale) if I had checked that no one was looking as I typed my PIN. Of course, I had. Both then asked if I had seen anyone nearby making a mobile phone call. Of course I had.

Here’s the trick: The watcher stands as far away as he can in line of sight, appearing to make a call, shuffling about and looking disinterestedly in a totally different direction, but zoomed in on the keypad with his smartphone camera and videos the process. He reviews the video at his leisure as many times as he wants until he’s got the sequence, while a colleague picks the appropriate pocket. Then it’s time to go shopping.

Apparently, this is the new hi-tech method for gleaning PIN info. The police also mentioned and increase in the use of tiny, solid-state cameras (bullet-cam/pet-cam/keyfob-cam) stuck inside the alcove, out of sight, just above your fingers.

Capt. Patrick McLister

… and speaking of cameras in a slightly related topic, this from tomorrow’s Economist:-


Captain Kenny Coombs

I’m writing to let your readers know about the death of Kenny Coombs

Kenny was well known throughout the world; some thought of him as the ultimate sailor. He was the founder of the Antigua classic yacht regatta in its present form and he captained many large classic sailboats.

He will be remembered for many things, his constant jolly laugh and mentoring of so many young people in sailing are just a few. He and Jane were at our wedding in Kennebunkport, Maine, many years ago. My husband, Toz, and I will always remember him and his easygoing outlook on life.

Leslie Hudson

Student Services, MPT

For more about Capt. Coombs, visit and

Bimini enforcing visa rules

Just thought I would pass on recent immigration policy enforcement for Bimini. It is an old policy but is now being enforced, at least in Bimini.

We cleared in this week [late-October] to Bimini. I have a Filipino engineer they would not allow into the country until he updated his visa. I have cleared into the Bahamas at least six times a year for the past seven years with the same crew member and it had not been a problem or discussed. He holds an expired visa but they want him to renew the visa.

I only bring this up to make captains aware that Bimini officials are now enforcing that visas be held by certain nationalities. My gut tells me that with the Bimini Resorts cruise ship coming here daily, they are more strict with the policy. I have never had this issue in Bimini, Nassau, Cat Cay, Lucaya or Chub Cay in the past.

I don’t disagree with this policy; I only bring this up to make other captains aware they are now enforcing it.

Capt. Scott MacPhee

M/Y Gazelle


Marine weather station off air

It is with a sad heart that I learned that South Bound II Coastal is now QRT.

South Bound II Coastal was a free weather-routing service run by Herb Hilgenberg out of Toronto. Since 1987, Herb ran a radio net, first on amateur radio and then on marine band, twice a day, seven days a week.

As a professional delivery captain spanning three decades, I had opportunity to listen to his net on my Grundig Yacht Boy receiver and on several occasions, sought Herb’s guidance on trans-Atlantic and Caribbean passages via SSB 12.359 mhz.

After reading how several people “threw Herb under the bus” for his conservative yet accurate weather prognostication, it compelled me to write and express my appreciation for the dedication and compassion he showed mariners who sailed the high seas for the past 26 years.

Enjoy the sunset, Herb. You’ve earned it. It has truly been my honor knowing you.

Capt. John Wampler

To learn more, visit


Related Articles

German grocery opens in FLL

German grocer Aldi has opened a store at 1707 E. Commercial Blvd. The retailer is known for its low-priced, in-house items. The store will present changes for American consumers.

LMC named foreign trade zone

LMC named foreign trade zone

Lauderdale Marine Center was granted the nation’s first marine Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) designation at its facilities in Fort Lauderdale on June 7. “This has been the culmination of …

No Need for a Meltdown Over Hard Butter

No Need for a Meltdown Over Hard Butter

Have you ever panicked because you forgot to take the butter out of the fridge in enough time to soften it before meal service? Using the microwave doesn’t work

History of diesel, from sperm whale to compression-ignition engine

History of diesel, from sperm whale to compression-ignition engine

RED: Motoring Rhode Island was a thriving British colony in the mid-1700s, and the hub of its wealth was the city of Newport. It was one of the five

YCA offers benefits financial session

The new Yacht Captains Association (YCA) has launched the first of its affinity programs for members, discounts with Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and Sixt Rent

Triton survey on the docks: What’s your favorite onboard snack?

What’s your favorite onboard snack? Today’s question of the day took a simple, somewhat silly tone. We were curious to learn just what crew nibbled on throughout the day.