Cashier In Japan Arrested After Using Photographic Memory To Steal Credit Card Information

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Too bad the cashier used his exceptional memory for evil, not good. Good that they caught him.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested a part-time worker, Yusuke Taniguchi, 34, when they discovered he used the stolen information to purchase bags worth an estimated $2,600 in March, according to CNN.

The credit card companies have partially corrected this by putting the number on the back of the card, which the cashier can’t see it when the customer sticks the card into the reader. Now they need to stop printing the number on the back or stop allowing cashiers, restaurant waiters, etc. to even handling your card.

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A police source familiar with the investigation told CNN that the man, who worked at a shopping mall in Koto ward, had allegedly memorized customers’ credit card information while processing their orders — then recalled the credit card details later to shop online.

The suspect has a photographic memory and police have found a notebook with card details listed in it, said the source working on the investigation.

He has been in police custody for six days, police say. Japanese investigators can hold any arrested suspect for up to 20 days before they are charged. It is unclear if he has hired an attorney.

A crime committed only with the help of a photographic memory would be one of Japan’s more unique cases of credit card theft — but certainly not the biggest. In 2016, a group of thieves used about 1,600 forged cards to withdraw money from 1,400 cash machines across Japan. In just over two hours, they stole $13 million. [CNN]

Some people don’t think it is possible to remember all those numbers but never say never.

If eidetic memory is hardly ever found in adults, then why do those of us who are excellent spellers say we merely “read” the words as we see them? Why am I able to recall where information was on a page of a book or newspaper? Why was I able to describe perfectly the appearance of a book I had noticed the day before while looking for another one? I even remembered its location on a shelf. (My memory wasn’t perfect–I thought the book was in the bookstore where I worked, while I had been in the library the day before on my day off!)

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Admittedly, it isn’t perfect—it doesn’t work with numbers in my case (in fact, I don’t even copy numbers correctly without effort,  and I’m fairly face blind. But unusually I can find my way around a strange town better by studying a map and visualizing the street pattern than by following written directions. In college, I often was able to recall material by mentally picturing my notes or the textbook. And I know plenty of people who can do this.

If that person remembered 1,300 numbers in a month, that’s only about 60 a day or, assuming an 8-hour day, about seven-card numbers an hour, with time to write them down between customers. Writing them down without being noticed and keeping the list from a supervisor’s eyes sounds complicated, but not the remembering itself.

Mr. Taniguchi collected 1,300 credit card numbers, but Japanese police ended his crime wave at $2,400? That’s some efficient crime-fighting! If it had happened here, he might well have enjoyed months or years of living beyond his means before our constabulary ever gave him a second glance.

This piece originally appeared in and is used by permission.


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