Cops Now Using Prepaid Card Readers to Rob Motorists of Digital Funds on Roadside

erad-policeBy Justin Gardner

Civil asset forfeiture (CAF) is coming under increased criticism around the country, as the immoral nature of this drug war weapon becomes exposed. New Mexico became the first state to make meaningful reforms, and even law enforcement officers are speaking out against CAF.

CAF amounts to outright theft from innocent people since cash and assets can be taken with no conviction of a crime. It brings millions in revenue to police departments so they can turn around and get more gadgets of oppression.

Case in point—the Electronic Recovery and Access to Data (ERAD) Prepaid Card Reader. This tool, developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is increasingly being deployed by local police departments.

The ERAD allows cops to swipe prepaid cards, check the balance, freeze the account and take all the money. The ostensible purpose is to go after “bad guys” with “dirty money,” as drug traffickers are turning to prepaid cards instead of bundles of cash when traveling.


However, this ERAD-enabled moral crusade by government will undoubtedly bring about more theft from innocent people, including those with no actual drugs and harmless users who might have a joint lying around.

If Joseph Rivers had put his life savings on prepaid cards as he traveled to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a music producer, he still would have been robbed by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona was recently approved to use ERAD devices during traffic stops that result in the discovery of illegal drugs. They are paying $3,685 for three readers, but also must give 5.7 percent of the stolen wealth to the company, creating a demand for more and more CAF seizures.

Approximately $1 million has already been seized by state and local police agencies using ERAD card readers.

Bill Soto, program manager at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, describes how the new CAF tool is becoming a hot item.

The Prepaid Card Reader has generated a lot of interest from our state and local law enforcement agency partners, and there is a growing demand by these agencies for use of this technology by their personnel. It provides a unique tool for when they encounter suspect cards with magnetic strips during the performance of their duties.

The threat to citizens is particularly significant for those who don’t have the means to get a bank account, and manage their finances with prepaid cards. If they happen to have a bit of weed in their car, they could be left without a penny to their name.

“We know that many students, immigrants and unbanked persons use and rely on prepared cards as their primary means of making payments and managing their finances,” said attorney Judith Rinearson. “Why should they be singled out and treated disparately from users of other payment products? Why should law enforcement have access to their account balances without a subpoena or other due process?”

If federal, state and local governments are serious about reforming the wasteful, immoral war on drugs that has criminalized and stolen from millions of nonviolent people, then CAF reform should be a top priority. They should follow New Mexico’s example and require a conviction before seizing money and assets from people.

The rollout of the ERAD card reader, however, tells us that authorities are intent as ever in the quest to steal from citizens.

Justin Gardner writes for TheFreeThoughtProject.com

  • vladilyich

    There is no law that I am aware of that permits an LEO to rifle through your wallet.

    • Michael

      there is no law allowing most of what the government does, from collecting taxes from people to making them have ID or a drivers License. We are simply an occupied nation. We do it because we haven’t fought back.

    • B-Free (NL)

      If the find some controlled substance on you you’ll probably get arrested at which point you have to empty your pockets and before they put you in a cel take the laces out of your shoes, while they are stealing your money, car and dope.

  • I’ve been told that these cards have a chip inside them that can be read from fifty feet away by the appropriate equipment. Not just by swiping the magnetic tape. A former defense contractor told me that those large rectangular posts that you pass through going into the Walmart store will not only detect stolen merchandise, but they also read your driver’s license, all of your merchant “points” cards so that they can not only see your criminal background by tie-ins with NCIC criminal databases and thus assess your potential threat as a shoplifter, but they can also track all of your purchasing history, the kinds of products you buy frequently and a lot more. The camera that films your entry also verifies your general appearance so you can be tracked through the massive video system in the store. If you ever want to mess with them and see how pervasive the surveillance is, go into a Walmart sometime without any cards or drivers license on you, and wear a big hat so the camera can’t see your face. It will freak you out how QUICKLY you start getting tailed- everywhere you go in the store. Especially if it is 2 AM…

  • BellsNwhistles

    The system is called capitalism but the citizens are not capitalist. Only the corporations are capitalist and the mega rich who own those corporations. The system does not allow citizens to get rich anymore without the corporations control. Money fuels the system whos needs out rank the citizens.

  • Angel Ramirez

    Guilty until proven innocent.

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