This give a new twist to the term “Road Pirate.” This device, called the ERAD, allows the police to take funds directly from your pre-paid card.
(Officer holding an ERAD – photo credit KWTV)
As reported by Fortune:
Police officers are using a new technology, called ERAD machines, to siphon funds directly from drivers’ pre-paid cards in the course of ordinary traffic stops.
The tactic, which cops have deployed for months in states like Oklahoma, is a new twist in “civil forfeiture,” a controversial legal process that lets police seize funds from motorists if they suspect money is tied to a drug crime. Critics, however, liken the practice to banditry—noting the police use forfeiture to pay themselves, and that citizens must take extraordinary legal measures to get their money back.
The arrival of the handheld ERAD machines, which stands for Electronic Recovery and Access to Data, comes at a time when fewer people are carrying cash. They work by imitating the payment terminals found at ordinary retailers, and allowing cops to slurp up the values found on pre-paid cards for Visa V -0.30% , Starbucks SBUX -0.07% and so on.
For now, it appears the ERAD devices are only able to siphon funds from pre-paid cards, and not from a driver’s personal bank account or credit card.
If you are suspected to be tied to drugs, for any reason, the police in several states can take your money and ask questions later. The process of the police seizing your money is fast, but getting it back isn’t so easy. It also leaves a gray area, in that if you are pulled over and your car smells like weed, can they then siphon your funds?
Fortune continues with:
A recent press release from the Department of Homeland Security talks up the benefits of ERAD technology.
“Law enforcement seized approximately 1,000 cards from a suspected drug trafficker. With this technology they were able to identify more than $48,000 in funds that were loaded onto the cards,” said the release. “Since it was put into field testing, the Prepaid Card Reader has resulted in approximately $1 million dollars being seized by state and local law enforcement agencies from suspected criminal activity. ”
The trouble, says Miller, is that drug dealers are far from the only ones who use pre-paid debit cards. He points out that a growing number of employers are using services such as Visa Payroll, which encourages them to pay workers through the cards.
Miller says that law enforcement typically offers an example of using ERAD in order to seize funds in the event a driver is found with a suspicious stack of 50 pre-paid Starbucks cards in the truck of a car. But in reality, the police may also be using it to suck up funds from a single card in a driver’s wallet.
“The tech seems to have come out of nowhere and there’s no oversight of this,” he said. “A whole lot of these cases are for forfeitures of $500 or $800.”
He adds that the overwhelming majority of the seizures result in default court judgments, often because people don’t have the means or will to fight the police in court.
A program praised as a way to combat the war on drugs, seems to have the potential to target poor individuals. With the rate of wrongful deaths and overall misconduct on the police’s part nationwide, should we be entrusting them access to civilian’s funds without due process? Leave your comments below.
(Article by Jaimes Campbell)
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