Homeland Security investigators are asking the public to help identify a man they say has been planting so-called “skimming” devices at Bay Area grocery stores.
The devices are designed to collect credit and debit card information whenever a card is swiped, giving thieves access to credit card numbers, pin numbers and security codes. Often times, the skimming devices are made to look like a standard part of the card reader, so they often go undetected until a shopper notices fraudulent activity.
In September, an employee at a Walnut Creek Safeway saw a man remove a skimmer from his jacket and install it at a check-out stand, agents said Monday.
Store managers then informed all of the grocery chain’s Bay Area locations, leading to the discovery of an identical device that a different suspect had installed at a Dublin Safeway.
The suspect responsible for the Walnut Creek Safeway attempt was caught on the store’s security camera. He is described as having dark-colored hair and may be driving a Toyota Corolla.
“Skimming devices result in major losses for the affected financial institutions and can cause a disruption in consumers’ personal finances,” said Ryan Spradlin, a special agent with San Francisco’s Homeland Security office. “Being alert plays a critical role in keeping our community safe.”
Both devices were removed before any customer data was breached, Homeland Security officials said.
Investigators believe the two East Bay incidents are related to a tip they received in July about Bluetooth-enabled skimmers at gas stations and other stores.
“If you see something out of place or someone’s behavior that doesn’t seem quite right, don’t hesitate to notify authorities,” Spradlin said.
Officials are asking anyone with information to call Homeland Security Investigations at 866-347-2423.