Another local convenience store has fallen victim to credit card skimmers as numerous incidents of fraud have been reported at the Wildrose Gas Station, located on the corner of Highway 202 and Brian Way, over the past several months.
Carla Cook, of Tehachapi, said her debit card was skimmed at around 6:30 a.m. Aug. 4 at Wildrose.
Cook said she used her card at the pump on her way to work and later found out her card information had been used in fraudulent transactions totaling $300.
"There was a man sitting nearby in a truck when I was pumping," Cook said of her surroundings during the transaction.
After contacting her bank, Cook was told a hold would be put on her card, and that she would have to wait seven to 10 days for a new card. She then called the Kern County Sheriff's Office, and was advised to report the crime online at Kernsheriff.org.
"Many people say just don’t go there or pay cash, but I think we all need to report any criminal activity we have been victimized by and make it more difficult for these types of things to happen in our town and elsewhere," Cook said.
Store owner Kamlesh Prajapati said he is a victim, too.
"They are targeting my store," said Prajapati, who purchased the station five years ago.
According to Prajapati, his store has had numerous complaints of fraud reported to him over the past few months. He said he and his manager check the pumps every day, but only once was a skimming device found.
"We have complained to the police. It is hurting our business and we are losing customers," Prajapati said.
Prajapati said he plans to install new pumps in the next few months, and he and his manager closely watch the store's surveillance videos each day.
To his knowledge, Prajapati said that only credit cards, not debit cards, have being skimmed, and that only people who are using their cards at the pumps, and not inside the store itself, are being skimmed.
Prajapati thanked his customers for their patience and loyalty, and asked that they come into the store to pay for their gas, whether they pay by card or cash.
Sgt. K. Lackey of the Kern County Sheriff's Office explained how credit and debit cards are compromised by skimmers.
"The way the skimmers work, they install a blue tooth device inside the gas pump and then they remotely download the information. When they are done, they either abandon the skimmer or recover it," said Lackey.
Skimming devices can also be attached to the outside of the pump in the form of a counterfeit, false front. Any card with a magnetic strip is vulnerable to skimming fraud.
"It is important to know that, generally, these skimming tactics are done by organized crime, and not your individual person in town," Lackey said.
Lackey offered advice on how credit and debit card customers could best protect themselves.
"The inside (of the store) can also be vulnerable to skimming, but it is not as likely. You should always use a credit card inside or cash to pay for your transaction. The reason for that is because you can refute that charge. If it is a debit card, it can cause more heartache and headache," said Lackey.
All victims of credit/debit card fraud should report the incidents to the Federal Trade Commission online as well as local law enforcement, said Lackey.