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Prepaid credit cards targeted by skimmers



The Whistler RCMP is investigating after three reports this week of card skimming, including one victim who lost $7,500 as a result.

The first two reports came in on Jan. 30 and involved prepaid credit cards. In the first case the card was used around Whistler before it was skimmed, and a scammer created a duplicate card that was used to withdraw $1,000 at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. The second case was similar, with $650 taken and the balance of the card also withdrawn at the Tropicana.

The third call on Feb. 4 was in regard to charges between Jan. 29 and Jan. 31 that added up to $7,500. All of the withdraws were also made in Las Vegas.

The RCMP is warning people to be on the lookout for card skimming devices. Some are attached to the front of ATMs and scan card information and PIN numbers; some use a camera to read card numbers and PIN numbers or a combination of both. Others are point-of-sale card readers that have been tampered with or replaced by scammers who distract store employees and swap out their POS terminals with rigged machines. Both the automated bank machines and sales terminals will continue to work as usual while recording or sending information on transactions to scammers that make fake cards to make withdrawals.

Cards with security chips are not at risk at this point, but scammers are targeting various international bankcards, prepaid credit cards and other cards that don't have that security feature.

"I would say to be cautious using credit cards and debit cards, to be really wary if something looks fishy or hokey on a POS (point-of-sale) terminal or ATM," said Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair of the Whistler RCMP. "Don't use it or report it. If you work for a retailer, watch for suspicious activity by customers or people trying to distract you away from POS terminals and call police because there are groups of people out there doing this."

So far this year the RCMP has logged 24 counts of fraud since Jan. 1, which includes credit card fraud, Craigslist scams and other activities. During the same period last year there were 11 reports of fraud.

Annually, there were 117 reports in 2012 and 109 in 2011. In 2010, there were a number of rental frauds reported around the Olympics for an annual total of 142.

While rental frauds have been reported almost weekly, there was just one report in the past week. A U.K. resident who rented a house on Craigslist was asked for half of the $3,800 rent as a deposit, which he paid. However, the person claiming to be a landlord then contacted the man back and asked for the other half, at which point the man grew suspicious and asked for a refund. Police are investigating.

Snowmobilers spent night in the backcountry

Fog and low visibility prompted a group of seven snowmobilers to hunker down for the night on Sproatt Mountain and wait for help.

The RCMP got a call at 9:15 p.m. on Feb. 3 from a member of the group, who said they were stuck by low visibility and were unsure how to get back. The next morning, a group from local Search and Rescue and local guides set out to find the men, and located the group at 10:15 a.m. The men were in good spirits and their snowmobiles were working, and they managed to ride out before 11:30 a.m.

Three of the men were from Washington State, one was from Victoria and the other three were from around the Lower Mainland. The age range was between 23 and 56.

That wasn't the only rescue call. On Feb. 3 the RCMP received a call from a skier who told his friends he was going out of bounds and had not returned. The man was heading down the mountain below 7th Heaven, and the way out was harder than he thought. Search and Rescue was on standby but the lost skier made it out on his own just before 3 a.m. after a seven-hour adventure.

Car thefts down for Whistler

ICBC released its latest report on auto crime last week, and according to statistics there was a slight increase in vehicle thefts in Whistler from nine in 2011 to 11 in 2012, but overall thefts are down 59 per cent since 2003. The busiest years were 2005 and 2006 when 34 vehicles were reported stolen. As well, thefts from vehicles reported to ICBC dropped to 21 in 2012 from 29 in 2011. Overall, insurance claims are down 63 per cent since 2003.