Mason Police District – Three men have been charged with fraudulently obtaining credit card numbers using a financial skimming device hidden inside gas pumps. A fraud investigator from an undisclosed bank contacted our Financial Crimes section on Wednesday, March 8 to report several customer credit/debit cards had been compromised at a gas station in the 5600 block of Columbia Pike, in the Falls Church area. Two skimming devices were located inside two of the gas pumps.
Detectives set up surveillance the following night near the gas station. Around 11 p.m., they observed a car with multiple people inside pull into the station’s parking lot and sit there for several minutes. The car eventually left the lot. Detectives, with the assistance of Arlington County Police, conducted a traffic stop in the area of South Walter Reed Drive and 14th Street and spoke to the driver and occupants.
Their investigation determined the suspects were downloading financial credit and debit card information from the installed skimming device via a Bluetooth device. Subsequently, Osvaldo Bello Villanueva, 40, Enrique F. Franco, 76, and Abrahan Noa, 47, all of Miami, Fl., were arrested and taken to the Adult Detention Center. They have been charged with the following:
Franco: One count of criminal possession of credit card forgery devices and three counts of credit card theft
Noa: Three counts each of criminal possession of credit card forgery devices and credit card forgery and five counts of credit card theft
To help protect yourself against this type of financial fraud:
How does a skimming device work? A skimming device is affixed to, or installed into, a machine with a card reader. When you slide your card through the reader for your transaction, the device collects financial information from the card, to include PIN numbers.
Skimming devices in the 21st century are more technologically advanced. Older skimmers attach to, or cover, a machine’s card reader; an accessory device is usually hidden nearby. You may be able to see loose fixtures, tape or adhesives on a machine that would draw your attention to a problem.
Newer devices can be placed inside, or wired to, a card reader. Bluetooth technology allows criminals to obtain your credit card information without being present at the location or having to return there to collect or download financial information.
How can I protect myself? Financial Crimes detectives offer the following:
- Inspect the machine; you may not be able to see the actual device, but look for pry marks, scratches or signs of tampering
- Use your credit card (versus a debit/ATM card) when possible; your PIN can be recorded and it may be more difficult to have personal bank funds reimbursed
- Protect your PIN; use your hand to shield anyone nearby from observing your entry; be aware of strangers standing close to you or who offer to help you with “broken” machines
- Regularly check your bank and card statements for discrepant charges; if you notice anything fraudulent or questionable, contact your bank or credit card company immediately
- Monitor and report even small charges; stolen financial information is often used for small, ordinary purchases, like gas or groceries
- Try to use ATMs or machines in areas covered by security cameras
- If you feel you’ve been a victim of financial crime in Fairfax County, you can report it online through the Financial Crimes Online Reporting (FiCOR) system