Prescott Police are warning the public about thousands of dollars being stolen directly from residents’ accounts after thieves successfully deployed credit card skimmers around Prescott recently. Even law enforcement have fallen prey to the thieves.
Skimmers are devices that thieves attach to public card payment terminals and ATMs that captures the data from customers cards when they swipe them. They do not prevent the use of the terminals. The thieves then return to gather the skimmers which contain the captured card data. Some skimmers also have cameras installed to record their victims entering their PIN numbers. They then sell the data or use it create cloned cards, make online purchases or to steal money from the accounts. Skimmers can be identified but are designed to blend in and look like part of the machine to avoid suspicion of the victims.
Once the Prescott Police Department was made aware of the crimes, they began checking gas pumps around the area, but no skimmers were located. Chief Joey Beavers said they have been working with financial institutions to narrow down the businesses that were compromised and found the thefts were focused at stations around the interstate, primarily Love’s. Investigators are going over security footage to attempt to identify suspects. The problem for investigators is the skimmers appear to have already deployed and recovered their devices before PPD was notified and they don’t know the exact dates the devices were in place, which greatly increases the video they have to check.
Chief Beavers said most of the notifications have come in through financial institutions warning of fraud and not from the victims themselves, so they don’t currently know how much was stolen. If you have made purchases at the pump in recent weeks, you should keep a close eye on your accounts. Chief Beavers said that he was notified he was a victim of the skimmers when he got a fraud warning when he used his card to purchase fuel and someone attempted to use his card in Houston, TX twenty minutes later.
PPD said the strongly suggest you prepay for fuel inside to avoid becoming a victim and to check with your financial institutions to see if your card services offer fraud alert monitoring and have it enabled to try to catch any fraud attempts on your accounts early.
The Arkansas Attorney General gives the following tips for avoiding becoming a victim of skimming:
- Check for obvious signs of tampering. If something looks different, such as a different color or material or the graphics are not alighted correctly, do not use that card reader and notify the owner or management.
- Wiggle everything, including the card reader.
ATMs are solidly constructed and usually will not have parts that loosen. Also
wiggle the card as it is inserted. PC Magazine reports that the skimmer needs
the card to go in straight to read the data correctly, but most ATMs take the
card and return it so the movement will not affect the transaction but could
foil a skimmer.
- Cover your hand while entering the PIN number.
Shielding the keypad with your free hand could protect your bank account.
- Use ATMs in busy locations. Scammers need time
to install the skimming equipment and are less likely to take that risk if
there are people around. ATMs inside banks and grocery stores are usually safer
than those outside.
- Always review account statements for any suspicious activity. If you detect an unauthorized charge, notify your financial institution as soon as possible. Timely reporting of an unauthorized charge will mitigate your liability.
PPD requests that if you have any information, contact them at 870-887-6779.