Multiple Reports of Credit Card Skimmers Hitting Local Residents; Police Offer Advice

Reston residents are concerned they may have been the victim of credit card-skimming devices and are sharing information about the threat via the NextDoor community.

Last month, a Reston resident contacted Reston Now about the conversation that was taking place regarding the threat.

“My issue followed our credit cards being shut down once again from our bank,” Rick Robinson said. “They said we were a victim of ‘skimming,’ so I thought I might able to crowdsource the locations responsible or at least get feedback from the community.”

The thread Robinson started on NextDoor, a private neighborhood networking site, had numerous responses from other Restonians. Among the places they claimed they had been “skimmed” were local grocery stores, gas stations, ATMs and restaurants. Some claimed they were defrauded of thousands of dollars.

A credit-card skimmer is a small device installed over an existing terminal. The device captures and stores all details from the card’s magnetic strip as it is swiped for an otherwise legitimate transaction. The information can then be used to create a cloned card, or to make online purchases.

Robinson said his bank could not tell him where his card was “skimmed” — something he said has happened three times. Pfc. Michael Crutchman of the Fairfax County Police Department told Reston Now there have been “multiple reports” of alleged skimming activity on area residents’ cards. However, he could not provide any verified locations of the activity in Reston.

The officer provided the following safety tips to help avoid card-skimming devices when using a credit card at a terminal:

  • Pull on the place where you insert the card, ensure that it properly affixed to the terminal. If it is loose, or comes off, notify staff of the place where the card is being used, or call for police assistance.
  • Check the key/PIN pad area and look for small/pinhole cameras
  • Try to use credit cards instead of debit cards, because they are protected and insured

In June, FCPD said they had found 21 card-skimming devices in 15 locations around the county. At that time, they also said there are Bluetooth-enabled skimmers, which have no external warning signs. Police say for this reason, older gas station pumps should be avoided, as they are easier for scammers to infiltrate.

Image of Bluetooth credit card skimmer via Fairfax County Police Department

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