Police investigating Walmart ‘skimming’ trio who hit Canandaigua, Geneva

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ONTARIO COUNTY, N.Y. — Police are encouraging anyone who went to Walmart recently to check their bank statements. Three suspects are wanted for attaching card-stealing devices to several Walmart stores across western and upstate New York.

“We know that there are three individuals, two males and a female,” Lynnea Crane, trooper with the New York State Police, said. In all the incidents Crane’s team was aware of, it was the same three individuals.

Early on July 2, the three entered first the Geneva Walmart, and then Canandaigua’s. They placed what’s called a skimming device on a single register at both stores. The machine was placed in employee checkouts, and not self checkouts.

“So it goes right over the top of the actual credit card machine,” Crane said. “It’ll do all the same functions that the machine does, except it’s going to be collecting your information.”

The front and back of a scamming device, courtesy of New York State Police.

Lieutenant Lee Martin with the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office said they were on for about three days before employees noticed. Martin said the employees found the devices after getting a tip from Walmart’s corporate offices.

“So we have both of those that we are holding on to and we are hoping to get some sort of evidence off of,” Martin said.

Due to the positioning of the registers, police said the employee’s view of the card reader is almost entirely blocked by a computer. The suspects were able to place the skimming devices in plain sight, without alerting workers. The skimmers are battery-operated, and use Bluetooth technology to get information when a customers swipes their card. A fake keypad also collects the PIN.

“Once they’re installed, either the same group of people would come back around to the stores or possibly a different group, either in the store or outside the store, and access the device through Bluetooth, to get the data,” Martin said.

The scammers entering the Canandaigua Walmart, courtesy of Ontario County Sheriff’s Office.

Local, county, and state police are all investigating multiple Walmarts throughout the state. Walmart did not confirm how many of their 98 New York locations have been hit. They provided the following statement, saying they are deferring to law enforcement for information.

“Providing customers with a safe shopping experience is a top priority. We’re continually reviewing protocols and adding enhanced security measures to better protect in-store transactions.

“Also, this situation remains an on-going criminal investigation, and we’re actively engaged with various law enforcement agencies. We’re appreciative of their willingness to share key details with the public and media during the previous week.

“Customers concerned they may have been impacted can contact their card provider or Walmart Customer Care Team at 800-925-6278.”

Customers have several options to keep themselves safe from potential scammers. Police recommend paying with credit, for extra security on purchases, or with cash. When using a card, police advise checking for loose or misaligned pieces on the card machine.

“And that really goes for any point of sale terminal or an ATM — these skimming devices show up everywhere,” Martin said. “A lot of them we never find out about because the people will come back and take it back off.”

Customers who believe they are the victims of fraud are encouraged to reach out to their bank as well as their local law enforcement agency.