Phone and credit card scams surface in Central Texas

Central Texas law enforcement authorities offered tips on how to avoid local scams after reports of credit card and phone hoaxes.

Central Texas law enforcement authorities offered tips on how to avoid local scams after reports of credit card and phone hoaxes.

Credit card skimmer scams and scam phone calls have surfaced in Central Texas and local authorities are encouraging residents to stay informed and be prepared. Credit card skimmers are camouflage devices installed in a fuel pump that can read card and PIN numbers.

Credit card scams on the rise 

Travis County is warning residents about the possibility of credit card skimmer scams in the area after multiple reports surfaced from within the city of Austin and Travis County.

The Texas Department of Agriculture looks for illegal credit card skimmers during routine inspections of over 400,000 fuel pumps statewide. If a skimmer device is suspected or found, the department contacts local authorities to remove the device and initiates a criminal investigation.

“We’ve been dealing with this on and off for the last few years,” said Kristen Dark, public information officer for the Travis County Sheriff’s Department. “It’s not something we see rampantly but it’s something people should be cautious of.”

In Travis County, a press release from the Department of Agriculture reported two incidents in the area.

One incident was reported at a Speedy Stop, 1320 E. Oltorf St., and another at a convenience-store fuel pump located at 12000 N. MoPac Expressway.

A separate incident was also reported at the 711 at Burnet Road and Hwy. 183. None of the fuel stations were aware of the device’s presence and were not implicated in any illegal activity related to the device.

“They’re placing them in places they are not going to be seen,” Dark said. “Most likely from as far away from the clerk as possible so they can implant the device without being seen doing it.”

Here are five tips to follow to avoid a credit card skimmer scan:

  1. Use the pump closest to the store

  2. Inspect the credit reader to make sure it isn’t loose and has no plastic overlay on it

  3. Make sure the sticker seal on the pump is intact and hasn’t been broken

  4. Do not use a debit card or PIN number at the pump—pay inside

  5. Contact local law enforcement authorities if something looks suspicious

Williamson County warns public of scam phone calls

Multiple reports have been made in Williamson County of fraudulent calls coming from the Sheriff’s Office's main number, 512-943-1300/512-943-1100, asking for payment for outstanding warrants.

According to a press release from the office, the caller alleged the victim owed money and failure to pay would result in a suspension of his driver's license. The victim complied and gave the caller the payment information for a prepaid Walmart card.

“Williamson County is not going to call you and let you know that you owe money,” said Patricia Gutierrez, public information officer for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. “We will send a letter out if you have an outstanding warrant.”

Gutierrez said residents who believe they have an outstanding warrant can also inquire about their status at the sheriff’s office with a valid photo ID or by having an attorney fax over a request.

All reports of fraudulent phone calls should be made to the non-emergency phone line at 512-943-1300.