Credit card skimming devices discovered in the Bay Area, at least 6 agencies warn cardholders

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — A simple swipe on your credit card can cost you far more than you intend to buy. Skimming devices that are commonly installed by scammers in ATMs, retail stores, restaurants and gas stations are often difficult to spot.

Criminals are able to camouflage devices with legitimate card readers.

“You’re talking about money,” Ahmed Banafa, a San Jose State University professor and cybersecurity expert, told ABC7 News. “I mean, if they can get their money any way they will.”

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Banafa explained that these devices take seconds to set up and depend on Bluetooth to later transmit collected data.

“Receiving a Bluetooth is not a difficult thing. There are devices that can simply get this information. Once they store enough information – two days, three days – they can come back to the same place, download this information “, he shared. “Whether they’re in the back of a car when they go to the gas station, or maybe they’re standing, you know, next to the ATM. And just download that information and watch what ‘they collected.’

Thursday, video uploaded to TikTok showed the moments after a customer claimed to have found a skimmer in Mill Valley.

RELATED: Fremont Police Arrest Crew During Large-Scale Skimming Operation

The Marin County Sheriff’s Office confirmed they took a report of a device discovered at a Tamalpais Valley 7-Eleven. Officials plan to send the device to the Computer Crimes Task Force.

Over the past six weeks, at least six Bay Area agencies have issued warnings about similar crimes.

On July 15, a device was reported to a Sunnyvale Chevron 7-Eleven.

Petaluma PD then reported skimmers and small cameras were found between a Bank of America ATM and three 7-Eleven stores.

RELATED: South San Jose Residents Victim of Widespread Grocery Store Credit Card Fraud

Oakland PD shared surveillance photos of a man planting a device in mid-July.

In August, a skimmer found in a 7-Eleven was reported by Broadmoor Police near Daly City on the 17th.

The 19, Morgan Hill PD was alerted to a skimming device and a small camera above a Bank of America ATM keypad.

“Leaving your information, especially financial information, in the hands of people who are not authorized to do so is always risky,” Banafa added.

He said the scammers typically use the information to make their own purchases, or even order new cards, all at the victim’s expense.

RELATED: Fraud alert turns into frustration for Bank of America customer

“Don’t use your debit card, use a chip credit card,” he said. “Because the chip is more secure, it goes directly to the device instead of something that can read it and it’s encrypted.”

Banafa said to avoid skimming, consider paying in cash or using third-party options like Apple or Google Pay, which won’t transmit your credit card information.

“On top of that, we’re going to look at the device itself. See if it’s really waterproof or not, see the label, seal that’s available, look at the next device, cash dispenser or pump, and see if it’s similar,” he suggested.

Take a few extra moments to protect your money.

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