Hoquiam Police are warning residents to double check for possible credit card skimmers after several reports of fraud on debit cards recently. Police Chief Jeff Myers said earlier this week the department received eight fraud reports from residents who had their debit card compromised and used within the past few days. Stolen debit card information was used to withdraw cash from cash machines in Seattle, Des Moines, Redmond, Lacey and Yakima. Most of the transactions were $400 to $800.
At this time, the investigation suggests skimmers were installed on local gas pumps in the Hoquiam and Aberdeen area which allowed suspects to scan and capture debit card information. Detectives have not yet been able to verify the gas station locations or locate skimmers attached to the pumps.
It would appear most of the victims had accounts at Twin Star Credit Union, but it is possible other local financial institutions were also hit. Detectives are working to pin down the dates and locations of where the debit cards may have been skimmed in order to retrieve video surveillance.
As we’ve reported in the past, credit card skimmers placed on ATM’s or gas pumps can be very difficult to spot. Below are important steps every cardholder must take to protect yourself from card fraud.
1.Be vigilant, protect your card at all times. Your PIN number is private and should never be given to anyone.
2.Inspect ATM devices or gas station card readers before inserting your card. Look for anything that appears suspicious such as pieces that are loose, added on, or out of place.
3.Cover the keypad as you enter your PIN number in the device. Small cameras can be positioned to pick up this information.
4.Review all bank transactions and statements regularly. Online Banking and Mobile Banking are easy ways to review your account information anytime.
5.Notify the bank of any suspicious transactions immediately.
6.Be aware of your surroundings. Observe other people in the vicinity of the ATM at the time of your transaction.
7.If anything about the ATM looks suspicious, leave and use a different ATM.
Citizens are encouraged to check their accounts for fraudulent activity and immediately report any unauthorized charges to their financial institution and the local police department.
Aberdeen Police reported last week that they were aware of social media posts about the issue, but that no police reports had been filed. Aberdeen Police Chief Steve Shumate said this morning that they are starting to see some reports of fraud now, and investigators are working to determine a common denominator. He added that it was too soon to say how the information was stolen.
Unfortunately, these fraud cases are difficult to prosecute locally because the card data is often stolen at one location but the funds are actually taken from another. Many skimmer cases involve advanced technology and organized criminal groups who travel over significant distances to make their activities difficult to track, document and prosecute.