ITHACA, N.Y.—The Walmart location in Ithaca was affected by an interstate, four-day credit card skimming scheme involving three suspects who installed devices over credit card scanners.
Credit card skimming refers to when devices are installed on ATMs, point-of-sale terminals, or fuel pumps to collect personal data — particularly credit or debit card information — from customers.
The devices used, which sit on top of existing credit card scanners, looked nearly identical to typical Walmart credit card terminals, leading unsuspecting customers to use them as normal.
In an email to The Ithaca Voice, Ted Schwartz, acting chief of police at the Ithaca Police Department, confirmed that IPD is aware of credit card skimming at the Walmart in Ithaca and that the investigation is currently ongoing.
The Ithaca Police Department (IPD) previously told WSYR-TV that the device was installed on Wednesday, July 5, at the Ithaca Walmart, but did not share which register was targeted or when the device was found. It is unclear how many people were impacted.
Reporting by WSYR-TV found that a total of 16 Walmart stores were affected by the skimming scheme, with impacted locations spanning from Central New York to the Southern Tier to Maine. The New York State Police is investigating the incidents as well.
Officers from the different police agencies investigating cases compared surveillance footage and found that the culprits appear to be the same individuals in all of the cases. The suspects appear to be two men and one woman. Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying the culprits.
Schwartz included a list of recommendations for customers to avoid credit card skimming:
- Pay inside where it is less likely the credit card terminal has been tampered with.
- Use mobile payment options like Google Pay or Apple Pay if they’re an option.
- Use the chip reader rather than swipe. Skimming is possible this way, but less likely.
- Use credit, not debit, whenever possible. If a thief is able to steal your debit card information, they have access to your bank account.
- Investigate the card reader to make sure nothing looks or feels unusual. If something doesn’t seem right, pay inside and report your concerns.
- If possible, only stop at busy, well-lit, and well-maintained gas stations. Look for stickers or other signs that the pumps are regularly inspected.
Furthermore, Schwartz noted that the majority of large banks and credit card companies provide recommendations to customers on this subject.
“Skimming is becoming more and more of a problem,” Schwartz wrote, “and […] the technology and subsequent fraudulent attempts are ever evolving with each other.”
Julia Senzon is a reporter from The Cornell Daily Sun working on The Sun’s summer fellowship at The Ithaca Voice.