Law enforcement officers can now tell how steep a criminal’s overdue library book fees are.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) on Sept. 6 posted a notice on its website about a new tool called the Electronic Recovery and Access to Data (ERAD) Prepaid Card Reader. The handheld device allows police officers to check the balance of cards, including credit and debit cards, gift cards, hotel key cards, library cards, and Metro cards. The website post stated this device will be useful because criminals rarely travel with stacks of paper money anymore.

With the ERAD, officers can scan cards and place temporary holds on the linked funds until investigations are over. So far, law enforcement officials have recovered cards that had approximately $10 million in fraudulent funds linked to them.

“We’re able to identify stolen credit cards and mag strip information, and we’re able to seize cash on the side of the road that is being extorted in prepaid debit cards,” said Sgt. Ron Hain of the Kane County, Ill., Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Unit. “In 2015, we started to see prepaid debit cards in conjunction with credit cards scams, as well as drug smugglers also possessing the prepaid debit cards. ERAD has been able to help us decipher each one of those crimes.”

According to the posting, Hain is one of many law enforcement officers who use the ERAD. The tool was originally used by First Responder Groups (FRG), but is now available at the commercial level for law enforcement use.

“When we found out about the need for this technology from one of our DHS agency partners, we worked to develop the technology necessary to address this critical issue,” explained FRG Program Manager Bill Deso. “They were seeing large numbers of prepaid cards during the performance of their duties, but had no way to check the balances on the cards. The ERAD Prepaid Card Reader now provides law enforcement personnel with this capability.”

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