In Your Corner: Tri-Cities police on skimmers, how to protect your money


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TRI-CITIES, TN/VA (WJHL) – Tri-Cities law enforcement are warning you to check your bank accounts for any fraudulent activity.

This comes after reports of fraud and skimmers being placed on gas stations across our region.

On Monday – Eastman Credit Union Executives announced that around 1,000 customers were impacted by card fraud at ATMs.

ECU is still looking into how criminals gained access to customer card information.

News Channel 11 talked to law enforcement on what they’re seeing as they investigate these kinds of crimes and what to look out for.

Kingport police call these financial crimes “trending” with an increase as of recently.

We spoke to police in two of the Tri-Cities, with two people now in custody after a card fraud investigation out of Bristol.

After a two week long card fraud investigation by Bristol, Virginia police along with area law enforcement – Uvar Esquenazi and Renier Ramirez-Rodriguez are now in custody in Jefferson County, Tennessee without bond. They’re each facing 77 felony charges.

“18 of our victims, fraudulent activity occured here in the city,” Bristol, Virginia Police Department Detective Anthony Johnson said.

Johnson said the two placed skimmers at multiple gas stations in Tennessee and Virginia.

“They were able to get into the gas pumps and figure out by connecting wires, people’s information on their credit cards,” Detective Johnson said.

It’s a crime that’s become more elaborate with new technology.

“They’ll actually put a skimmer wired in line in the system inside. And when that happens they often are bluetooth capable and the criminal can come within range and download the information off that machine,” Tom Patton with the Kingsport Police Department said.

In turn – it’s becoming more and more difficult to spot.

“There are police officers who are trained who investigate these crimes who’ve still been victims themselves,” Patton said.

Although difficult to spot – police said there are ways to protect yourself.

“When they’re using the gas pumps, try and use credit, that way they don’t put their personal identification numbers in,” Detective Johnson said.

They also recommend using gas pumps that have a tamper resistant seal on them.

“Let your credit or debit card out of site as little as possible,” Patton said.

A key note – if you notice anything strange with your accounts or see a skimmer – give police a call.

Another tip – use your eyes and hands.

Police advise you wiggle the ATM card reader to see if it’s loose.

That’s another way to see if there’s a skimmer attached.

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