Article from Fortune by Jeff John Roberts.

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, +0.72%) , Starbucks (SBUX, +1.39%) 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.

Read the entire article at Fortune.