ANTHEM, AZ — Dozens of people in Anthem say they are out thousands of dollars because of credit card skimmers at a Circle K.
Detectives with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office found multiple skimmers at the Circle K near Interstate 17 and Daisy Mountain Drive. A spokesperson for MCSO says another skimmer was found at the other Anthem Circle K by Phoenix police.
Law enforcement is still investigating and believes there are more victims. No suspects have been arrested yet, and it is unclear just how much money they have stolen.
Investigators say they are stealing customer's information once they swipe the magnetic strip of their debit or credit card. The victim's pin information and the card number are then transferred, via Bluetooth, to the criminal's computer, and they can begin using the card almost instantly.
It is what happened to retiree Tracy Martin.
"The first thing the lady at the credit union said was, oh, you are part of the gas scam," recounted Martin. "The officer that took the report for me said that this was a pretty sophisticated skimmer."
Fortunately, her credit union caught the thieves as they were making a $309 purchase at a Scottsdale Fry's grocery store.
"I had the money back in my account before the day was over, but I used to my debit card as a credit. And a lot of people don’t do that, they use it as a debit," said Martin.
Megan Johansen, unfortunately, used her debit card at the Circle K pump, and then went on a weekend staycation in Scottsdale with her husband for their anniversary.
"When I got back, and our account was drained, it was shocking," said the mother of four.
Johansen told ABC15 she has still not been reimbursed any money from her bank, more than ten days after the theft. The thieves racked up nearly $2,000 in purchases across the Valley, and even out of state.
"They did $1300 to the hair shop in Scottsdale. Then there was almost $400 at Gamestop. There was a couple hundred charged to a few outlet stores in Nevada," said Johansen.
For the mother, the entire ordeal has been draining and stressful.
"We had to put some bills on some credit cards, it was frustrating," she said.
The theft is even impacting her daily routine.
"I have to go outside my city limits to get gas because I don’t trust the gas station up here," she said.
Johansen and Martin say they are just two of dozens of victims. There are hundreds of comments on NextDoor and Facebook posts from other residents who suspect their accounts were compromised due to the Circle K fill up.
"Well there’s only two [gas stations in Anthem], so take your pick. They probably got 50 percent of the business," said Martin.
Both women are also trying to warn others about a false sense of security, due to a sticker because they thought they were safe.
"The sticker was there! I always check for that," said Martin.
"I was looking for those, making sure it wasn’t tampered with, because I had heard of it happening," said Johansen. "The sticker was fine, so I used it. Then I heard somebody say the scammers now have those stickers and they are replacing them."
At least two skimmers have been pulled from the location.
According to the Arizona Department of Agriculture, the same gas station was targeted last year.
So far in 2019, the agency has removed 80 skimmers across Arizona, the actual number out there is probably much higher.
"These are smart people who know what they are doing," said Martin.
The criminal or group of them are still on the loose, skimming and spending other Arizonan's hard-earned cash. They are also changing the way people live.
"I will be using cash to pay for the gas inside," said Martin.
"I’m terrified that it’s going to happen again because I can’t afford to lose another few thousand dollars. I’ve got kids to feed," said Johansen.
As we have reported, more than half of skimmers have been found at Circle K's in recent years. In a prior statement, a Circle K spokesperson told ABC15:
"The Circle K Arizona team conducts daily inspections on all fuel dispensers looking for skimming devices... However, data thieves continue to develop methods to steal credit card data. So, while our dispensers in Arizona are checked daily for such devices, customers can also take steps to protect themselves by checking credit or debit card transactions daily, and by scanning dispensers for foreign devices before using... If customers see something that looks suspicious, they should not use the fuel dispenser and inform a store employee right away."
In 2018, the Arizona Department of Agriculture reported a total of 148 credit card skimmers being found across the state. This almost tripled the total number of skimmers found in 2017, which totaled 57.
Weights and Measures investigators say the devices they are finding are becoming more sophisticated, including some utilizing Bluetooth technology to remotely access card information.
Agency officials tell ABC15 they are now working with gas pump technicians, encouraging them to report skimming devices so they can better track them and look for trends.