LOS LUNAS — The Los Lunas Police Department’s criminal investigation division is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying a man who is suspected of “skimming” credit cards in the village of Los Lunas, then fraudulently withdrawing money from ATMs in Albuquerque. The crimes happened between January and February of this year.
Anyone who may have information regarding the identity of the man pictured above is encourage to contact Detective Heather Killingsworth at 839-3855 or by email, [email protected]
The identities of the person providing information related to this crime shall remain confidential if requested. Anonymous tips can be submitted through the Los Lunas Police Department’s “STOPit” mobile application, available on all smart phones. (Enter access code: loslunaspd).
Some local social media crime watch pages have been awash with claims of fraudulent bank transactions from Albuquerque to Australia thanks to debit and credit card skimmers in the last few months, but the Los Lunas Police Department had only received a few complaints.
“We’ve only been forwarded about five reports for fraud related to possible skimmers,” said LLPD Detective Nikki DeAnda. “We are still looking into the cases.”
The detective said while two of the cases seem to have originated from the same gas station in Los Lunas, there’s nothing to confirm that.
“It’s what was reported and is under investigation,” she said. “There could be more locations. If you notice suspicious activity on your bank account, no matter where, report it immediately.”
DeAnda said at this time the department hasn’t been able to establish a precise origin of where or how people’s accounts have been compromised.
“The hard part with these skimmers is they are almost impossible to spot. There’s nothing obvious,” the detective said. “They can be concealed without having to tamper with the machines. They might be all taped up and not look altered.”
As a security measure, most gas stations have security seals on their pumps that are broken when the machines are opened. The seals have a printed warning to not use the pump if it appears to have been tampered with.
DeAnda said a skimmer can be attached to a self-pay gas pump or ATM without opening the machine and breaking the seal.
“It could also be a Bluetooth transmission. One of our detectives is going to go to a few stations to see if there are any devices available that look odd,” she said. “Right know, we don’t know if this was done using a skimmer or if the information was passed via Bluetooth.”
The detective urged anyone who has recently had their bank information compromised and fraudulent charges made to report the crime.
“By reporting the fraud, we can narrow down where this is originating from,” she said.
DeAnda said this kind of fraud is difficult to prove.
“The individuals placing the skimmers, whether it’s at an ATM or a gas station, may not be the person committing the fraud. You might have a person placing the device then another person retrieving the card information and using it in other jurisdictions and countries,” she said. “It’s a very frustrating crime.”
Once the department receives a report of fraud and possible skimming activity, DeAnda said they investigate, pulling security footage in an attempt to identify the person who placed the devices.
Both the fraudulent transactions and placing the skimmers are a crime, the detective said.
“We are telling people who have filed reports with us to be as vigilant as possible. Check the machines, pull on the card readers, see if they move,” she said. “If there’s any suspicious activity on your bank account or card, we want to know and we’ll start investigating.”
DeAnda said it’s important to report the fraudulent charges to law enforcement.
“I understand, as a citizen, my first reaction would be to contact my bank and get the card cancelled immediately. The longer that account is open and valid, they are going to continue to use it as much as they can,” she said. “It happens quickly so people should monitor their accounts closely with this happening. These reports have come from people who have their card with them, it wasn’t lost or stolen.”
The department has leads on a couple of the fraud cases that have been reported, DeAnda said, because the transactions have happened in Albuquerque.
“Others are out of state or out of the country,” she said. “If you feel like your account has been compromised, contact law enforcement and file a report. When we get a lead we want to react as quickly as possible.”
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.