Credit Card Skimming Device Found in Takoma Park

Takoma Park Police are warning residents that a credit card skimming device has been found in the city.

Police did not identify the location of where the skimming device was found.

Skimming is a method used by identity thieves to steal personal information. It involves using a small device called a skimmer to scan and store the information from a credit card’s magnetic strip during a legitimate transaction at a business (video below).

Credit card skimming occurs when criminals use a small device to steal credit card information during a legitimate transaction. The device captures and stores the details from the card’s magnetic strip, allowing thieves to make fraudulent charges online or with a counterfeit card. Skimmers are often placed over card swipe mechanisms at ATMs and gas stations, with some criminals using hidden cameras to record PIN entries. In some cases, retail and restaurant workers are recruited to use handheld devices to skim card information during transactions. Once the information is stolen, thieves may create cloned cards for in-store purchases, use the account for online shopping, or sell the information online.

Credit card skimming victims are caught off guard by the theft. They discover unauthorized charges on their accounts or money taken from their accounts, even though they never let go of their credit and debit cards. Victims are often unaware of the theft until they receive billing statements or overdraft notices.

Takoma Park Police spokesperson Cathy Plevy provided these tips for handling credit card skimming:

Using your credit card puts you at risk of falling victim to credit card skimming. Detecting skimming incidents can be challenging without knowing what to look for.

To catch fraudulent charges related to skimming, monitor your checking and credit card accounts online at least once a week and report any suspicious activity to your bank or credit card issuer.

Be cautious where you shop, as credit card incidents often occur at restaurants, bars, gas stations, retail store self-checkouts, and ATMs, especially standalone ones. Before using an ATM, check for any signs of tampering. Cover your hand when entering your PIN to prevent a camera from capturing it, and if the keys seem difficult to push, use a different ATM.

Beware of “credit card cleaning” scams, where thieves offer to clean the magnetic strip on your credit card. In reality, they swipe your card through a skimmer to steal your credit card information.

If you think you have been a victim of skimming, get in touch with your bank or credit card issuer to inform them that your credit card details have been compromised. It’s best to call first and then follow up in writing. If only your credit card information has been stolen, you won’t be responsible for any unauthorized charges.

Place a fraud alert on your credit report. This will require businesses to verify your identity before approving any applications made in your name.

Notify the Federal Trade Commission. They often work to dismantle large credit card skimming operations. Your report will assist in apprehending the culprits.

To report any information about skimming devices found in the city, contact Takoma Park Police at (301) 270-1100.

Photo: “UCSD-JacobsSchool-20190802-BT_skimmers-00149-e-8MP” by Jacobs School of Engineering is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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