Police Departments Use Machines to Seize Digital Cash

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Some police agencies are using machines to read money cards seized from crime suspects, NPR reports. Officers can instantly freeze or seize the funds loaded on prepaid cards using the handheld device.

Some civil liberties advocates say the machines may be abused, but law enforcement officials and the device’s developer say it’s helping agencies crack down on fake cards and fraud. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said the device, called Electronic Recovery and Access to Data (ERAD), “is becoming a vital tool for law enforcement seizing these cards and funds associated with criminal activity.”

DHS said ERAD had helped state and local police seize about $1 million related to suspected criminal activity during a test period. Using an ERAD device, a law enforcement officer can retrieve the balance of any magnetic-stripe card. If the card is determined to be a prepaid card, then the officer can instantly freeze or seize the funds loaded on the card using the device. After getting support from DHS, ERAD was adopted by police departments “more than a couple hundred” police departments says T. Jack Williams of manufacturer ERAD Group Inc.

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