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Beware of Gas Station 'Skimmers' in Santa Cruz County

Local residents' bank statements showing ATM withdrawals from SoCal. Numerous reports from the Watsonville area.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.
Area police reported Thursday that many locals are complaining about ATM withdrawals from Southern California that police believe are caused by "skimming" devices at Santa Cruz County gas stations, according to police.

Police in the past month have logged numerous reports of credit card fraud from residents of the city and Santa Cruz County of fraudulent charges on their bank or credit cards statements, said the Watsonville Police Department.

The false charges have been ATM withdrawals or fuel purchases from places in the Southern California area even though the victims still have their credit, debit and ATM cards, according to police.

Detectives from the department's investigations unit have learned that the credit card processing systems of several businesses in Watsonville have been compromised by the installation of "skimmers" by criminals.

The devices are attached inside or outside of fuel pumps at gas stations without the knowledge of the business owners and capture the card numbers used by customers.

The perpetrators later remove the skimming devices with the card numbers stored in them and then retrieve and use the numbers to withdraw money and make fraudulent purchases.

Police have discovered and removed several skimming devices from local businesses and have learned the use of the skimming devices is on the rise in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties and that some criminal organizations on Southern California are involved in the scheme.

The public should consider paying with cash instead of cards at gas stations and if using a card, go inside and pay, not at the pump where a skimming device may be planted, police said.

Customers are also advised to monitor their credit and bank statements regularly and report fraud to police, look at card readers at other pumps to make sure they are the same as the one they are using and avoid using PIN numbers at the gas pump.

-- Bay City News

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