Thieves late last month struck two Lake Arrowhead residents, skimming their ATM cards to make purchases for thousands of dollars.
In one case, a Lake Arrowhead resident learned on March 30 that unidentified persons attempted to make several purchases totaling $6,000 with his credit card, according to a report from the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station.
The bank approved $3,333.66 in charges before determining that the additional purchases were suspicious, said Altaira McComb, a spokesperson at the station. Those remaining charges were not approved, she said.
The individual(s) who obtained the victim’s credit card information used it to make purchases at Best Buy Online. It was unknown in what city the transactions occurred, where the suspect(s) might be located, or where the merchandise was sent.
By contrast, another Lake Arrowhead resident learned on March 28 that purchases charged to her ATM card were sent to a vacant residence in Phoenix, Arizona, which apparently had been used as a delivery point. Unknown suspect(s) charged $2,500 in merchandise using the victim’s ATM card information.
Fraudulent use of a credit or debit card, and theft by fraud, are increasingly common as criminal methods of stealing money from individuals become more sophisticated. The amounts seem to escalate as thieves grow bolder. Bank accounts can be drained in a matter of seconds.
The worst of the bad news is that financial experts predict that these kinds of crimes are likely to spike before the end of the year.
Thus far, reports of theft by fraud have been few in the Lake Arrowhead and Crestline communities, but the potential exists for more activity. Our mountain neighbors in Big Bear have already been hit hard by criminals who skim, capture PINs and scam people.
The Big Bear Grizzly reported on March 29 that the Big Bear Sheriff’s Station was inundated with dozens of reports of credit card fraud between March 20 and 25. Remarkably, the department received 39 complaints on March 21 and another 68 on March 22.
Thousands of dollars were stolen through credit and debit card withdrawals and charges.
Tiffany Swantek, public information officer at the Big Bear Sheriff’s Station, said the department believes that the skimming operation is being conducted by a group, not by a single individual. She described it as “a pretty sophisticated operation,” the Grizzly reported. That operation is currently under investigation.
Working as a group, suspects are able to use multiple skimmers in numerous locations. They collect data over a period of time and then use that information to manufacture counterfeit credit cards.
Skimming devices are usually attached to ATMs or gas pumps early in the morning or late in the evening when activity is slow. They might be attached for varying lengths of time, but typically no more than 24 hours.
It is important for people to familiarize themselves with the look and feel of the fascia on ATMs and other machines to avoid being skimmed. Inspect all areas for any unusual or non-standard appearance. The skimming devices are becoming more sophisticated.
Most people are getting used to recognizing skimming devices placed externally over ATMs. But new skimmers have been designed for installation inside the machines, where the card is inserted. A victim might not know that the skimmer is there.
Be aware that criminals might loiter nearby, waiting for someone to use a machine. After observing customers, they remove the equipment and download the information.
Being vigilant will reduce the risk of skimming.
If anything looks unusual, do not use the machine. Immediately report it to the sheriff’s department and to the bank branch.
Always shield your PIN when entering it.
Monitor checking and credit card accounts online at least weekly, which is better than waiting for a billing statement or overdraft notice to arrive from the bank by mail.
Notify the bank or the credit card issuer immediately if you discover suspicious activity.
Source: Mountain News