Officials are urging consumers in the Big Bear area to check to bank accounts for unauthorized charges and withdrawals amid numerous reports of credit and debit card fraud originating in the area.
By Tuesday afternoon, the Big Bear sheriff's station received about 20 calls about fraudulent account use with reports continuing to come in, according to Tiffany Swantek, a public information officer with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.
Detectives are working to identify a common thread between the reported incidents, but so far have not been able to determine the source of the criminal activity.
Authorities believe some sort of skimming device is being used on credit-card readers at local stores to electronically capture victims' financial information. The thieves are then able to fraudulently withdraw money from bank accounts and to make online charges, officials said.
Deputies investigated the credit card machines at all local gas stations but did not find any skimming devices or evidence of tampering, leading them to believe the theft is being executed remotely, Swantek said. Skimmers can be attached to legitimate payment terminals and used wirelessly to surreptitiously record data when a card is swiped.
One victim, Teaanna Manley, told KTLA thieves have been withdrawing cash from ATMs all over California. On Tuesday morning, one of her banks called to notify her of multiple ATM withdrawals in Van Nuys, each for $480.
“You need to check your bank account, now," she said. "All of us up here are getting hit.”
She and many other victims believe the activity is originating from the Circle K off Big Bear Boulevard, which Manley said is the only place she uses her credit card.
Another woman, Melissa Hall, said $300 was stolen from her husband's card after it was used in the area on Monday.
Until authorities are able to isolate the source of the fraud, they are only able to alert consumers and urge them to check their account activity, Swantek said.
Local resident Deborah Harriman said she only became aware her card had been compromised after it was declined while making a routine purchase.
“I went to the post office and my card was declined three times for a few rolls of stamps," she told KTLA. "I was really shocked because there’s enough money in the bank to buy two rolls of stamps.”
Fraud alerts can be placed on individual credit reports by contacting TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax.
Victims are also urged to report skimming incidents to local law enforcement. The Big Bear sheriff’s station can be contacted at 909-866-0100.