WATSONVILLE, Calif. -

Watsonville police say they've taken numerous reports of credit card fraud with similar circumstances in recent months, using what police believe are so-called "skimmers."

The victims have reported that while viewing their bank or credit card statements, they've discovered fraudulent charges. Most of the charges have either been ATM cash withdrawals or fuel purchases at locations in the Southern California area.  Their credit card, debt, and ATM cards are still in their possession, however.

Watsonville police investigators say several businesses in the city have had their credit card processing systems compromised by the installation of a device commonly referred to as a skimmer. The skimming devices are  connected inside or outside of fuel pumps without the knowledge of the businesses, and they capture the credit card or debt card information when the fuel pumps are used by the customer.

Watsonville police have  located and confiscated several skimming devices that were installed at local businesses.

They say this kind of credit card fraud is on the rise and is being carried out by criminal organizations with roots in Southern California.

So what can you do to protect yourself from being a victim of this fraud? Here's some tips from police:

  • Pay cash.
  • When using a credit or debt card, go inside the establishment and do not pay at the pump.
  • Monitor your credit or debt card statements regularly and report any fraud immediately to your bank and local law enforcement agency.
  • Inspect the card reader and area around the PIN pad.
  • Look at other nearby gas pumps or card readers to see if they look the same as the one you are using.
  • Avoid using your PIN number at the gas pump
  • Trust your instincts. If in doubt, don’t use it.