Police warn gas station owners, drivers about skimming devices

Police warn gas station owners, drivers about skimming devices

Howard County police are warning drivers and gas station owners of skimming devices inside gas pumps following last week's arrest of two Miami, Fla., men, who installed a device at an Ellicott City Exxon.

Police said skimmers are installed inside the cabinet of ATMs and gas pumps and use data from credit or debit cards, such as PIN numbers, to access bank accounts. Most victims don't realize they've been affected until they receive bank statements or an overdraft notice.

According to police, an employee at the Exxon gas station in the 4200 block of Montgomery Road saw Mario Eduardo Castro Ramirez, 51, and Frank Alvarez Rodriguez, 29, putting an illegal card reader inside a pump on Aug. 9. Ramirez and Rodriguez were arrested and charged with possession of a skimming device and counterfeit credit card materials, and later released on $5,000 bond and $25,000 bond, respectively.

Ramirez and Rodriguez marked the fifth and sixth skimming-related arrests by Howard County police, police said, with 19 cases investigated and nearly 30 devices recovered so far this year. Additional reports have led police to hotel rooms, where individuals with skimming devices and counterfeit materials were arrested.

Investigations have spanned across the county, according to police, including nine reports in Columbia; five reports in Ellicott City; three reports in Elkridge; and two reports in Laurel. The majority of reports involved devices at gas stations.

Local gas stations and businesses are asked to check their pumps and ATMs every day, police said. Signs of tampering include damage to the security seal on the cabinet panel and loose or crooked card scanners or keypads. Drivers should also consider choosing a pump within view of the gas station attendant and paying for gas inside the station or kiosk.

For more information, go to the Federal Trade Commission's website www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/avoid-skimmers-pump.

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