Police warning people about skimming crimes in Howard County

Posted at 11:52 PM, Aug 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-18 23:52:46-04

Howard County police are warning people about skimmers and it's seeing more of them throughout the area
The hidden, illegal card readers are usually attached to ATM's and gas pumps.  They take data from a credit or debit card, leaving you at risk and police there are cracking down.

"I would just usually pay inside if I'm at a gas station."

Aurora Loaeza has the right idea according to Howard County police who just arrested Mario Ramirez and Frank Rodriguez  for having a skimming device and counterfeit credit card materials.  They were spotted by an employee at the Exxon in the 4200 block of Montgomery Road in Ellicott City.  They were allegedly placing a device on a pump earlier this month.  Still, most people pay right at the pump.

"I usually do at the gas station because it's kind of hard to see the skimmer because you can't put your hand on it and go try to pull it off," residents, Molinda McDonald, told ABC2.

Howard County police released a list of all the skimming cases since the beginning of the year; there's 19 in all.  Now they're cautioning everyone about these crimes and they're listening.

"I advise everybody else to be careful.  Research which gas stations have been hit by skimmers and like I said, pay in cash if you have cash on you, don't hesitate to use it. It's the best way to stay safe," Loaeza said.

Another good tip because criminals can hide the skimmer and steal your data and drain your account, right from the pump.  New technology has made the devices smaller and harder to detect.

"You always have to be careful but this technology, in this day and age, technology is going to take you places that we've never been before unfortunately a lot of is good but some it is also bad," said McDonald.

Police recommend that gas station owners put protective seals over cabinet panels on the pumps and urge people to use cash and report any suspicious activity.

In most skimming cases, suspects are part of a much larger network of criminal activity.

A couple more tips for drivers?

Use credit instead of debit at the pump or pay inside.