According to reports, Capt. Craig Smith of the Travis County Sheriff’s Department is leading an effort to stop credit card skimming and other crime in Travis County, saying Texans shouldn’t pay for gas at the pump in the area.
Deputies are also targeting crimes, like prostitution, as part of their effort to crack down on crime in Pflugerville and northern Travis County, according to the Austin American Statesman.
Since October 8, Austin authorities said they arrested two people for credit card skimming.
According to Smith, the stolen card information is largely used to buy diesel fuel and then resell it illegally:
“Credit card skimming has become such a problem in Travis County that I’m encouraging everybody to not use their credit cards at the gas pump,” Smith said in an interview, adding “I know that takes away from the convenience of pay at the pump 100 percent, but, right now, that is the only way that we know that you can be sure that (you avoid) your credit card being skimmed.”
Skimming is a way for fraudsters to steal your credit card number by making a sort of imprint of the data, according to reports.
Sheriffs are reportedly attempting to outfox the scammers in various ways, working to find and remove skimming equipment from gas pumps before it can be used.
These efforts are said to include surveilling gas stations to catch people installing skimmers, though there is no success to share as of yet, as well as checking for bluetooth devices using a smartphone.
Smith, in an interview, said he offers this warning:
“If you see an odd Bluetooth device showing up on your cellphone, chances are there’s a skimmer somewhere close.”
Still, according to reports, the no. 1 way scammers get caught is through the use of information they already successfully stole.
Police in the area said they conducted two prostitution stings in October, netting the department 17 arrests, six potentially facing felony charges for soliciting a minor.
Sheriffs chose to target the Wells Branch area of Travis County because crime data indicated a high level of skimming and prostitution, according to the Statesman.
The Wells Branch Initiative, as it is said to be called, will continue through November.
Harris County authorities said a similar problem affected southeast Houston earlier this year, with a reported seven skimming devices discovered at Pasadena Valero.
One hundred and thirty-nine Houstonians also faced arrests for prostitution this week, thanks to the effort of HPD’s undercover sex sting operation.
This is a developing story.