Shoppers beware: more skimmers suspected at local stores

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — UPDATE 6/1/22: A spokesman for Target reached out to Channel 11 and said they checked all of their equipment and reviewed surveillance footage and were able to determine that no skimming devices were planted in their West Mifflin store. Last week, West Mifflin police suggested that the Romanian nationals accused of planting skimming devices at stores in four other communities in Allegheny and Butler Counties may have been at the Target store in West Mifflin. But a spokesman for the company said today they found no evidence that the men ever visited their store.

Original story:

The Sam’s Club in West Mifflin is believed to be the latest target of thieves who have been planting credit card-skimming devices at stores in the Pittsburgh area.

West Mifflin police posted a warning on their Facebook page telling shoppers to be on the look-out for unauthorized charges on their credit or debit cards if they used any cards at the Sam’s Club on Church Drive, the Target across the street, or the Applebee’s Restaurant next to that.

West Mifflin Police Chief Gregory McCulloch tells Channel 11 they suspect skimmers were installed in a self-check-out lane at the Sam’s Club, and possibly at the Applebee’s Restaurant and Target.

Channel 11 was the first to tell you about a rash of skimming devices hitting the area this past weekend, and Target 11 exclusively reported the arrest of two Romanian nationals for allegedly installing them.

Chief McCulloch says the department obtained surveillance video from May 14 and 15 at the Sam’s Club on Church Drive, which shows the same two Romanian nationals at that location. The chief says the men were also spotted drinking at the Applebee’s across the street for a couple of hours, sitting at a self-pay table, where another device could potentially have been installed. He says they’ve alerted the managers at Target to also check their self-check-out registers as a matter of caution.

Frustrated shoppers

Channel 11 talked to shoppers in the Sam’s Club parking lot in West Mifflin.

Many hadn’t heard the store was the latest possible target.

“It’s scary. I wish I would have known before I used by card,” said Sam’s Shopper Renee Ansell.

This makes at least five locations now where skimming devices have either been located or suspected. They include: the Frazer Township Sam’s Club, the Sam’s at Mount Nebo Point in Ohio Township, one at the Moraine Point Plaza in Butler Township, a gas pump at the Sam’s in Monroeville, and now, possibly the locations in West Mifflin.

“No matter where you go, everybody has a machine that’s been skimmed before,” said West Mifflin Sam’s shopper James Pittek.

Pittek says he is now extra careful whenever he shops and tries to avoid using his credit or debit card when possible.

“I usually travel with cash, or I will use an app to make purchases in advance that are secure,” Pittek said.

How to spot a skimmer

The skimming devices just confiscated look like a plastic casing with a keypad, which snaps right on top of the actual card reader.

Police say to be on guard for warning signs that a skimmer has been installed. Inspect the panel looking for any irregularities like:

  • Alignment issues
  • If it sticks out a little more than normal (because it snaps on top of the real panel)
  • If it seems loose or jiggles
  • If it actually pops off easily if you wiggle it

Also at gas pumps, you should see a strip of security tape on the cabinet panel. If that tape is ripped or broken, avoid using it, because that could be an indication of tampering.

“I’m going keep an eye out,” shopper Renee Ansell said.

Police say if you’ve shopped at any of the locations where skimmers have been discovered or suspected, you should monitor your bank account and credit card statement very closely, looking for unauthorized charges. If you see any, report them immediately to your bank and police.