UNT’s cyber lab files for credit card skimmer wand patent

The product is expected to make big changes in preventing credit card fraud.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – The University of North Texas UNT Cyber Forensics Technology Lab, headed by Dr. Scott Belshaw, associate professor in the College of Health and Public Service Department of Criminal Justice, has recently filed for a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a credit card skimmer detection wand. The product, developed by Dr. Belshaw and Michael Saylor, president of Cyber Defense Labs, is expected to have a major impact on preventing credit card fraud.

Credit card fraud has been occurring more frequently at gas stations and ATMs, with criminals inserting skimmer devices into machines that read a card’s expiration date, security code and 16-digit card number once it is swiped. The information is then sent via Bluetooth to the nearby criminal who will sell the victim’s information on the dark web.

The skimmer detection wand will be a small, handheld device that can detect that Bluetooth signal and warn users of the skimmer device in the machine using a simple, color-coded screen. If the wand picks up a skimmer device, the screen will turn red. A yellow screen indicates that the card reader is questionable and a green screen means no skimmer device is detected. Dr. Belshaw says this technology is ideal for fraud defense.

“The technology we’ve developed will allow business owners to perform daily scans as a proactive measure against credit card skimmers and will provide consumers with peace of mind,” Dr. Belshaw said. “It will allow businesses to assure their customers that they can detect skimmers before a credit card is captured and their valuable information has been compromised.”

The device is also expected to revolutionize police investigations. Plans include technology that will allow the police department to extract information from the wand that will not only enable them to notify victims that their card has been compromised, but allow them to track the criminal who placed the skimmer device.

Dr. Belshaw is working on the skimmer wand in the UNT Cyber Forensics Technology Lab with a group of UNT Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) students who know the technology well.

“They understand the computer science and coding side of things,” Dr. Belshaw said. “So, if I tell them I need to achieve a specific task or I need a certain type of software, they’ll just sit down and make it happen. Having their level of intelligence and skill is invaluable.”

Dr. Neale Chumbler, dean of the college, says he’s impressed with the development of the technology and looks forward to seeing the impact this device has on the detection of credit card skimmers.

“I applaud Dr. Belshaw for taking the initiative to address such a growing threat to identity theft,” Dr. Chumbler said. “Criminals have been able to place these devices far too easily and prey on innocent victims for far too long. The fact that this technology will allow business owners to protect us from cybercrime and that it will revolutionize the way investigators can track these thieves will have an incredible impact on society.”

While the product is in the beginning stages of development, Dr. Belshaw says it’s showing great promise and he hopes to have a prototype to test soon.

“We are excited to work with Dr. Belshaw as he develops and refines this technology,” said Michael Rondelli, associate vice president of innovation and commercialization at UNT who manages the intellectual property developed by UNT faculty and staff. “It addresses a growing need across multiple industries that will provide protection to consumers while allowing companies to drive new sales.”