GILROY, Calif. (KTVU) - A warning Monday for South Bay residents who may be victim's of a scam. Gilroy police say a credit card skimmer device was found hidden inside a gas station pump. Dozens of victims have come forward, including Carina Brandon.
"Chase called me. It was $500 taken out Saturday and $500 taken out yesterday," said Brandon.
Brandon says $1,000 was withdrawn from her bank account, after she swiped her card at this pump, at the Valero gas station at First and Westwood in Gilroy. She says one of her coworkers reported $700 was stolen as well. Police say it's a crime migrating from Southern California to the north.
KTVU asked Gilroy police sergeant Jason Smith if he's seen this kind of thing before?
"It's pretty rare down here. in southern California it's pretty prevalent," said Smith, outside his department's headquarters.
Gilroy police said Monday, at least 40 victims came forward, filing complaints of credit and debit card fraud. And that number could grow. Investigators found a card skimmer similar to this, installed inside a gas pump. They say it could have been hidden for over a week collecting thousands of victim's information.
"We tend to think that it might be either a crew or somebody with a lot of local contacts that are willing to come and take these credit cards and make purchases," said Sgt. Smith.
He says detectives have traced fraudulent purchases and unauthorized withdrawals spread over the South Bay.
"The size of device is getting smaller. it's not like before....so he or she can install it," said San Jose State University professor Ahmed Banafa.
Banafa says technology maybe a way of combating this technologically driven crime, which collects and stores card information until wirelessly downloaded by thieves. Some smartphone apps can detect the Bluetooth signal given off by a hidden skimmer..
"That's the indication that something is going on with that reader," Banafa said.
Gilroy police are tracing the long list of crimes in hopes of tracking the thieves.
"We're still panning trough everything to make sure we don't have an additional device out there," said Sgt. Smith.
This, as some customers bitten once by crime are now twice shy about swiping their cards.
"That's why I went inside and paid this time. so that's what I'm gonna do now. I'm never gonna put my cards in these machines anymore," said Carina Brandon, who has nothing but distrust for gas station credit card readers.
Gilroy police stress people who have used this gas station over the past one-to-two weeks should check their account statements. And if possible, when filling up look at the pump to see if it's been tampered with.