By Susan A. Neufeld
Update 2 – 3/24/17
According to the Big Bear Station of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, 58 reports of fraudulent credit card use were filed with the Department between March 21 and 22, as the “skimming” operation impacted dozens of residents in the Big Bear area earlier this week.
Most of the fraudulent activity occurred on Tuesday, March 22, when the unidentified suspect(s) made withdrawals of thousands of dollars at numerous ATM locations off-the-mountain. The “Fraud By False Pretense” offenses affected customers at all financial institutions in the Big Bear area, as well as several credit unions and banks in other locations.
Although 58 instances were initially reported, the number of affected accounts is likely much higher, since some victims may not have filed a police report after being reimbursed by their bank or credit union.
Affected persons sharing their experience on local social media platforms were in some cases also reporting that in monitoring their accounts, it was a fraudulent deposit that actually alerted them to the suspicious activity. In some cases, the suspects in such operations use the victim’s ATM card and information to deposit a large check into the account. The check is forged or drawn against a non-existent account or funds, but most banks will allow access to a certain portion of deposited funds before the check “clears.” The suspects then later withdraw cash at an ATM, drawing against both the victim’s available balance, and a portion of the so-called “deposit.”
Persons who used an ATM or Debit card in the Big Bear Lake area in the last week are urged to closely monitor their bank accounts for any unusual or fraudulent activity. Such activity should first be reported directly to the financial institution, then reported to the Big Bear Lake station of the SBSO. Affected parties are urged to provide, if available, receipts from their legitimate ATM or Debit card purchases as far back as mid-March, to their bank and the Sheriff’s Department. The receipts contain detailed information that may assist the financial institutions and SBSO investigators in determining the time and location(s) of the initial skimming activity.
If you have been affected, you may file a police report by contacting the Big Bear Station at (909) 866-0100 and a Deputy will respond to your home or workplace to collect your information.
Update 1 – 3:10 p.m.
The Big Bear Sheriff’s Station continues to receive a high volume reports of fraudulent credit card use. They are currently working with a Specialized Division of the Sheriff’s Department and financial institutions including banks and credit card companies to pinpoint the source of the fraud If you live or have been in the Big Bear lately and have been a victim of fraudulent charges you are urged to contact the Big Bear Sheriff’s Station to make a report.
*Where have you recently used your bank/credit card in Big Bear?
*What type of card was compromised? (i.e., ATM card, debit+credit card ir credit card only)
*Is there a PIN associated with your card?
*Was the card used to fraudulently withdraw money from an ATM? If so where and what time.
*Was your card used to make an online purchase? If so, what business(es) were purchases made from?
To make a report, please contact our local non-emergency dispatch line at (909) 866-7581
Big Bear Lake, CA – The Big Bear Sheriff’s Station has recently received numerous calls for service reporting unauthorized and fraudulent use of credit cards. Deputies are working diligently with the Big Bear Detective Bureau in an ongoing investigation to identify the source of the fraud. It is believed a skimming device is being used to capture credit and debit card information from unsuspecting victims. The unidentified suspects are then using victim information to fraudulently withdraw money from bank accounts and to make online charges.
Skimmers are malicious card readers that record data from magnetic strip on a credit or bank card. They can be attached to legitimate payment terminals or used wirelessly to gather data from credit card swipes. Criminals then use the stolen data to make fraudulent charges, either online or with a counterfeit credit card.
Victims of card skimming are often unaware of the theft until they receive a billing statement or overdraft notice from the bank. It is important for consumers to monitor checking and credit card accounts online at least weekly, and to immediately notify the bank or credit card issuer of suspicious activity. Fraud alerts can be placed on individual credit reports by contacting TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax. According to the Federal Trade Commission, a consumer can request any one of these three national credit reporting companies to put a fraud alert on their credit report and they must notify the other two companies.
Victims are also urged to report skimming incident to their local law enforcement agency. To make a report with the Big Bear Sheriff’s Station, please call (909) 866-0100.