MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO - Two Romanian thieves are in jail after Maryland Heights police catch them with phony credit cards, loads of cash and an encoding machine.
It’s the third case of its kind within the last two months.
Assistant U.S Attorney, Tom Albus said, Andreas Caldraru and Rubin Tiberiade of Romania will be charged with credit card fraud.
The arrests came after police responded to a call for a disturbance at a Westport Plaza hotel room Tuesday morning.
Once inside, police found $17,000 spread out on a dresser, more than 160 suspected counterfeit credit cards and an encoding equipment. But that’s not all.
“There were four individuals in the hotel room two female juveniles but we are not going to identify them,” explained Albus.
Court documents indicate that neither of the two men was traveling with Romanian passports and both presented what appeared to be valid Florida drivers’ licenses.
Albus said there is no indication the two underaged females were in any danger or were victims of a crime.
Meanwhile, he added, the Tuesday arrests are very similar to two other cases from almost two months ago. In both cases, the suspects are from Romania with numerous counterfeit credit cards, credit card encoding equipment and large amounts of cash.
“One way they generate this information is on the dark web and another is by utilizing a skimmer which is a device that can be put on a gas pump or an ATM that is very difficult to detect,” said Albus.
Albus said that though unusual, there is no evidence the three cases are related.
“When you send people with bad bank information and blank credit cards, the idea is that there’s somebody back overseas and these folks are expendable to some degree,” he said.
We asked Albus how a person is supposed to know if their financial information has been compromised or look for suspicious signs.
“A lot of the times it’s the pins are the things that get stale,” Albus explained. “You just have to keep an eye on your account statements online or by inspecting your statements,” said Albus.
Maryland Heights police are currently in the process of identifying victims in the most recent case.
The Better Business Bureau provided Fox2/News 11 with tips on avoiding skimmers:
· Keep a close eye on your bank and credit accounts. Check your online statements regularly to make sure there are no suspicious charges. If you see any, report them to your bank or credit card company immediately. Use the customer service number on the back of the card to be sure you are reaching the real company and not an imposter. Make sure you contact the bank, merchant and your card issuer if you ever suspect your card has been compromised.
· Look for signs of skimmers: If the card reader looks odd or bulky, give it a wiggle to make sure it doesn’t come loose.
· Be wary if your card gets stuck in a chip reader. If the reader seems to have a tighter than normal grip on your card, there could be a shim inside. You may want to cancel your transaction and notify the business.
· Use contactless payment methods. Contactless payment methods are not vulnerable to shimming. Try using "tap-and-go" features on your credit card instead of swiping or inserting your card. You can also use contactless mobile services such as Apple Pay or Samsung Pay to tap and pay.
· Go inside to a teller to withdraw cash at a bank.
· Use ATMs in banks rather than more vulnerable standalones.
· Cover the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN.
· Don’t proceed with a transaction if your card encounters resistance when it is inserted.